Saturday, May 16, 2015

Washington’s ‘Wet Drought’ Gets Worse

Extent of drought in Washington as of May 14, 2015. (Credit: U.S. Drought Monitor) Click to Enlarge.
With its snowpack at abysmal levels and some streams recording record low flows, Washington is perhaps looking at a worse drought than it anticipated even a month ago.  The impacts already being seen prompted Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday to expanded an emergency drought declaration to cover the whole state.

“We’re really starting to feel the pain from this snowpack drought,” Inslee said in a statement.  “Impacts are already severe in several areas of the state.  Difficult decisions are being made about what crops get priority water and how best to save fish.”

More than half of Washington is in some state of drought, according to the latest map from the U.S. Drought Monitor.  Drought in the worst-hit places is expected to persist or intensify through the summer, according to government forecasts.

Unlike the intense drought that has plagued California, which is a factor of both heat and lack of precipitation, the drought across the Pacific Northwest is what has been called a “wet drought.”  The region had plenty of storms blow across over the winter, but because of record warm temperatures, most precipitation fell as rain and not snow.

Both Washington and Oregon have reservoirs and watersheds that depend on snowmelt in the spring and summer to keep water flowing at normal levels.  As of May 8, 66 out of 98 snow-monitoring stations were snow-free, an earlier date than usual, Karin Bumbaco, assistant state climatologist in Washington, said in an email.

This type of drought, with warmer temperatures and less snow, is something expected to occur more often in the area as temperatures rise because of global warming.

Read more at Washington’s ‘Wet Drought’ Gets Worse

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