Summer Drought: A Window to our Future?

We’re “in the red” any way you look at it, but we are not alone. Most of the western U.S. is in some level of moisture deficit.

National Drought Map

When we look more locally, we see that moisture, held in the mountains as snow pack or in local soils for use by plants, is at historically low levels.

Washighton Drought Map

Two of the anticipated effects of long-term climate change are well illustrated in this year’s drought. One is the level at which snow accumulates is rising leading to more precipitation as rain and less available snow to slowly melt, feed streams and recharge aquifers through the summer months. And secondly, longer, warmer, and drier summers, as we are experiencing this year, lead to diminished stream flow and greater reliance on water storage reservoirs and wells for residential, municipal, agricultural, industrial and ecological water needs.

Shorter term climate fluctuations like the El Nino are likely to be influencing our current drought as well. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there is a 90% chance that the current phase of the El Nino will continue through this coming winter. Typical El Nino effects for the Pacific Northwest are for warmer and somewhat drier winters which suggests the water supply next year will be may be similar to this year. http://www.elnino.noaa.gov/

For more detailed information on the drought and things you can do to conserve and more efficiently use water, go to the Local 20/20 webpage at http://l2020.org/climate-action/drought/

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