We Have It, But It’s Not As Bad As Elsewhere.

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Sunshine
Bright Sunshine | Photo by Tim Chuey

In June I wrote a column titled Will We Use The “D” Word This Summer? and it seems the answer is yes. The National Weather Service Forecast Office in Portland issued a Drought Information Statement on August 15th that gives a summary of the drought situation in Oregon. ” Severe to extreme drought persists across south-central and southeast Oregon (shown in red). Moderate drought continues for much of southwestern, north-central and northeast Oregon. The next Drought Information statement should be issued by the middle of September.

Oregon Drought Index 8.15.14 | Image by NWSFO Portland
Oregon Drought Monitor 8.15.14 | Image by NWSFO Portland

The main driver for drought conditions is the much-below-normal snowpack for the 2013/2014 Winter and spring. Peak snowpack in March for areas of the south Oregon Cascades and southeast mountains was only 15 to 60 percent of average.” “Drought conditions are expected to persist or intensify at least through October, especially for the southern half of the state.”

Drought declarations have been issued by the state of Oregon for Crook, Grant, Harney, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Lake, Malheur, and Wheeler counties. Drought declarations by the US Department of Agriculture have been issued for Baker, Coos, Crook, Curry, Deschutes, Douglas, Grant, Harney, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Lake and Malheur counties. Those are considered as Primary Designations. Designations for contiguous (sharing a common border, touching) counties include Benton, Jefferson, Lincoln, Linn, Morrow, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa and Wheeler counties.

In the previous column I mentioned earlier I compared the current rainfall totals for the calendar year and rain year. Now I have some updated numbers that the National Weather Service Forecast Office Portland compiled to show the percentage of rainfall that cities received compared to what is the historic average amount of rainfall.

LOCATION                         WATER YEAR PRECIP OCT-JUL (INCHES)          PERCENT OF AVERAGE

Astoria                                                  53.77                                                       84

North Bend                                            34.00*                                                      53

Portland                                                29.96                                                       88

Eugene                                                  27.00                                                       61

Medford                                                 15.20*                                                     85

Redmond                                               04.75                                                       59

Klamath Falls                                        07.33*                                                      50

Pendleton                                              09.50                                                      81

Ontario                                                 06.52                                                       69

Burns                                                    06.75                                                       67

* Water Year SEP-JUL – Starts one month earlier than the rest.

The National Weather Service Forecast Office in Portland reports that temperatures in Oregon were very hot in July except for coastal locations. Most of the reporting stations had monthly mean temperatures that were 4 to 6 degrees above normal. The coastal stations were only 1 to 2 degrees warmer than normal. Eugene broke its record for the number of days at 90 degrees or higher with a total of 16.

According to the Weather Service “Throughout the Spring and Summer months temperature is a factor in snowmelt, river conditions, irrigation demand and crop development.” The temperatures in April and May were near to above-normal throughout Oregon. June temperatures varied depending on location. The central Cascades and southeast Oregon were below-normal, southwest and north-central Oregon temperatures were above-normal. The remainder of the state had near-normal temperatures for the month of June.

90-Day Outlook For September-November | Image NWS Prediction Center
90-Day Outlook For September-November | Image NWS Prediction Center

What’s next? The official outlook for August through October showed that above-normal temperatures will continue. The updated 90-day outlook for September, October and November also shows above-normal temperatures. (The darker brown means Below normal while the tan is below, but not as severely above normal for temperature.) So far August temperatures are already 2 to 4 degrees above normal as of August 15th. The warmer temperatures and lack of precipitation can cause serious water shortages.

90-Day Precipitation Outlook | Image by NWS Long Range Prediction Group
90-Day Precipitation Outlook | Image by NWS Prediction Center

As of early August several reservoirs in south-central and southeast Oregon reported little or no remaining storage of water. Two reservoirs, Owyhee and Warm Springs, report 0% storage. Other reservoirs reporting 10% or less storage are Gerber, Fourmile Lake, Beulah, and Bully Creek. When the storage levels are that low it means that there is little or no water for irrigation downstream. The 90-day outlook shows we are in an area of below normal precipitation. (The darker brown means Below normal while the tan is below, but not as severely below normal for precipitation.) This also means there is a good chance our wildfire season will last longer because of the warmer and drier conditions staying with us for the next three months.

When we take all of this data into account it looks like many areas of the state will have worsening water storage conditions until the rain season gets underway. If the rain season is delayed we should expect the state’s water supply problems to increase. At least our water supply locally is reasonably secure because area residents get their water either from the McKenzie River or an underground aquifer and not only from a rain-dependent reservoir.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].

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