The current official US Government Drought Monitor graphic for Washington State is shown below. According to our government, the entire state is in at least moderate drought, with NW Washington and eastern Washington being in severe or extreme drought.
Many state and local entities using the US Drought Monitor, such as Washington State and the Dept of Ecology Drought Page, which features the Drought Monitor information at the top of their webpage! (see below)
First, it is ridiculous to claim that our entire state is in moderate or more severe drought. There are stronger words I could have used, but this is is a family friendly blog.
As I write this blog, many of our local rivers are flooding with nearly all Washington rivers running above normal. For example, here is the latest USGS streamflow map. Nearly the entire state has streamflows that are well above normal (green, blue, and black), with some of the largest flows over the eastern slopes of the Cascades.
Only a handful of small, unimportant rivers in eastern WA are below normal. The latest NW River Forecast Center summaries show many rivers in serious flood stage over our state from the Yakima River in eastern Washington, to the Snoqualmie, to the Chehalis, and more. Doesn't look like drought there.
Well, what about precipitation? Here is the precipitation difference from normal for the 30 days ending on Tuesday. Most of the state is above normal (greens and blues), including all of western Washington, the Cascades, including the eastern slopes, and most of far eastern Washington. And where it is low (Columbia Basin), it is only a bit below normal. And those folks generally get their water from the Columbia River, which is at normal levels.
How about the official crop moisture index? Way above normal in western WA and normal in the east.
I know what you are thinking, what about snowpack? Surely, that is well below normal! Well, we don't hide anything on this blog...here are the latest % of normal for the date of snow water content for the U.S. Government SNOTEL sites. In general, we are close to normal, with sites ranging from 42 to 205%. And many of our ski areas will be opening early for Thanksgiving (e.g., Baker, Whistler).
But what about our reservoirs? Surely, they are way below normal due to the drought! The truth is that many of our reservoirs are well above normal from recent rains. Take Seattle. Here is the total storage of the Tolt and Chester Morse reservoirs. Levels have jumped to WAY ABOVE normal and are about 80% full. No problems with having enough water for next summer at this rate.
But what about the reservoirs on the eastern slopes that feed the critical Yakima River? How about Lake Keechulus near Snoqualmie Pass? (see below). Now well above normal (red asterisks). And rising. We are on track to completely fill the Yakima reservoirs earlier than normal.
I could show you more, but you get the point. It is silly to suggest that we are in a drought. We are not. And typical precipitation during even strong El Nino years is generally at or slightly below normal, so there is no reason to expect a drought ahead.
Now, I know what you are wondering. If it is evident that there is no drought, why is the Drought Monitor saying we are NOW in a serious drought?
The Drought-affected Snoqualmie Valley
Now we get to the embarrassing part of the blog.
Today an updated Drought Monitor Graphic was released (see below, with the previous week's version below that for each reference). They have moved western Washington from moderate drought to abnormally dry, but left the Cascades and eastern Washington the same.
THIS IS RIDICULOUS! There is absolutely no objective measure showing that western Washington is abnormally dry. And their changes do not recognize the HUGE amount of moisture that has fallen on the Cascades--on both sides. I found it hard to understand how NOAA and other groups can allow such a subjective and obviously wrong measure to become the NATION'S MAIN DROUGHT INDEX. And let me assure you, I can point out equally problematic drought appraisals in other parts of the country.
The total reservoir storage for the Yakima Basin is now at normal: