July 02, 2009

How Bad Has the Drought Been?

We have been in an extraordinary dry period--and this does not bode well for the summer. Here is some fascinating statistics given to me by Mark Albright (who used to be State Climatologist). For the period May 20 through the end of June, Sea-Tac this year was drier than ANY OTHER YEAR in the 116 yr record (see numbers below). On .18 inches of rain. I know...this is a somewhat artificial period...but the message is clear...we have been unusually dry.

Ten driest 20 May-30 Jun periods in Seattle:

2009 41 0.18
1934 41 0.28
1932 41 0.31
1925 41 0.36
1938 41 0.39
1924 41 0.50
1979 41 0.54
1911 41 0.55
1922 41 0.61
1918 41 0.63

What about June alone? This was the 7th driest June in 116 years.

10 lowest June precipitation amounts over the past 116 years from 1894 through 2009:

1922 30 0.03
1951 30 0.13
1908 30 0.15
1987 30 0.16
1925 30 0.16
1932 30 0.17
2009 30 0.18*
1934 30 0.23
1895 30 0.29
1940 30 0.34

The bottom line off all this is that we are going into the normal summer dry season with very low soil and surface "fuel" moisture values and the potential for big wildfires is greatly enhanced. The eastern slopes of the Cascades have also been dry and the climate prediction center is predicting increasingly severe conditions over eastern Washington (see graphic). This is really serious and people will have to be very careful with fire (and fireworks!).


  1. The soil in my garden is drier than it has ever been.

    To give a point of reference: I have used the same irrigation system for years, on the same schedule, starting May 1.

    There are areas of my yard that I rarely visit, but that flourish on my normal irrigation schedule.

    This year swaths of formerly healthy plants have died.

  2. Cliff,

    In those very dry years, what was the weather in the following summer, fall and winter? Was there a pattern?

  3. First red flag warning for the season for west side zones. 1000hrs fuels are not critical, 100hr are getting there, 10hr are pretty much cured...Haines is up there. Just need a spark..hmm what time of year is it?

  4. Interesting up and down pattern with the temps. Next week looks like the upper 60's and low to mid 70's

  5. Thanks for the information about exactly how dry it's been. We planted our garden (most of it) the week of May 20th. We've had natural watering exactly one day; I've watered it by hand every other day, and on some of these really hot days, twice.

    We took some tomato leaves to a master gardener; all of our tomato leaves are sort of curled up. She said that the plants have reacted to the early-season heat by curling up a bit to protect themselves. They won't uncurl but she said we should get tomatoes... and there are lots of flowers and little green fruit, so I'd say she's right about that. But I've NEVER seen all the tomato leaves curl like that.

  6. My blueberries are already ripened.


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