Statesman Examiner

All of Washington Out of Drought Conditions

- By Brandon Hansen / For The Statesman

According to the U. S. Drought Monitor, no area of Washington is currently in drought conditions. While large swatches of Northeast and Central Washington, along with the Puget Sound area, are in abnormally dry conditions, it does show that the state is heading in the right direction.

This wet spell is in stark contrast to last year when all of Eastern Washington was in drought conditions.

The winter of 2022- 23 has been wet so far, helping Washington crawl out of some of its driest conditions. The current drought map is the best it has looked in three years. Winter started early for much of Eastern Washington, and the precipitat­ion continued even if temperatur­es have been warmer in low- lying areas, causing some melt- off.

While the significan­t indicator will be how the state looks in April and May, if the snowpack is good, that could make fire season prediction­s more favorable.

Many parts of the state, including all of Western Washington, were under drought conditions as recently as three months ago.

In July of 2022, drought declaratio­ns were lifted in Central and Eastern Washington after cool and wet weather in May and June made the water supply conditions much more favorable.

The 2022 fire season lasted into October, but snow and cold temps hit in November and December. Stevens County residents were quickly inundated with several feet of snow before the start of winter.

Climatolog­ists hope an above-normal snowpack by April could ease fire danger in summer. There are many months between, so they are waiting to see what rainfall materializ­es. Currently, the western U. S. is in a La Nina weather pattern which means wetter and colder winters. This was the third La Nina winter in a row, which has only happened twice in the last fifty years.

Despite this, the summer of 2021 was the worst recorded drought for Washington and included a deadly “Heat Dome” where temperatur­es soared to 115 degrees. This caused Washington’s wheat yield to drop by 50 percent and the barley crop to be its smallest since 1977.

Drought conditions are based on soil moisture, precipitat­ion, and snowpack. For the past several years, Washington has been under drought conditions, and wildfire seasons have been among the most destructiv­e.

Down south in California, the state saw extreme drought conditions disappear from its borders for the first time in three years. The state saw nearly 65 inches of rain in some areas in the river as an atmospheri­c river hit the state. The Sierra Nevada’s also received an entire year’s worth of snow in that period. An estimated 32 trillion gallons of water fell on the state.

While the conditions have popped California out of extreme drought conditions, NOAA scientists said that a big downpour could not undo a long- term drought. It’s too early to tell if the state is bouncing back from a western drought that has dried up river water flow and caused reservoirs to drop extremely low. Ninety- two percent of the state remains in drought conditions ranging from moderate to severe.

As of Jan. 10, roughly 44 percent of the lower 48 United States was in drought conditions.

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