June 13, 2022

FINALLY. U.S. Drought Monitor Drops Severe Drought For Washington State

The reality on the ground has finally started to change the minds of the U.S Drought Monitor folks.

Until this week, the NOAA/US Department of Agriculture staff had severe drought over portions of eastern Washington (orange color in the right image below).  But this week, they only have a moderate drought.  

This week                                              Last Week

Severe drought was inconsistent with what has been happening on the ground for a long time.   
But even moderate drought seems problematic with the cool, wet spring.    Specifically, the drought monitor plot shown above, indicating moderate drought or abnormally dry in eastern Washington, is inconsistent with their own guidelines (shown below).

For example,  their own guidelines suggest that moderate drought is associated with streamflow percentiles of 11-20%  and abnormally dry has 21-30%  (50% would be exactly normal...with as many period above or below).

What are the observed, current river percentile (see below)?  Above 50% in most of the "drought" area.  No evidence of drought...just the opposite.

I could provide other parameters, but it is clear that eastern Washington is really in a good situation regarding moisture.

And not only have we been wet, but temperatures have been below normal:  for example,  Sunday was 10-15F below normal over much of the region.  Cold enough the Paradise Ranger Station, located around 5000 ft ASL got several inches of snow (see below).

The upcoming week will remain cooler and wetter than normal, with the particular focus of the heavier rainfall over the northern Rockies (see predicted accumlated precipitation through next Monday morning).  Importantly, BC and northest WA will get a piece of the action.

A major issue keeping our weather wet and cool will be the development of a remarkable low pressure/trough areas off our coast (see map for next Satruday below).  The purple color indicate much lower pressure/heights than normal.  


  1. I will add, or quiz you for insight, that "5 factor table" they use; only 2 of the elements are remotely visible to the average person (precip and streamflow). Are the other 3 columns trustworthy or are they have subjective elements? When you quiz them, they seem to hide behind the black box. One more quiz, is Drought about "right now" or is it about....well we think dry weather ahead will turn things dry"?

    1. Well if you look at their website agricultural drought includes forecasted water and moisture available throughout the growing season. See the following link from the WA State Department of Ecology. As of June 9th they still remain cautious. https://ecology.wa.gov/Blog/Posts/June-2022/Why-is-this-drought-so-wet

    2. begs the question of what does drought mean? If data says today all indicators are wet, can they override that with their own weather predictions of the future? The flaw is not subtle, they claim abnormally dry (say 100% for Ferry County) yet "today" that is preposterous.

  2. I have friends on a farm in the Palouse, and they said it's the wettest spring anyone can remember. So wet that spring planting was difficult.

    1. The ancient hunter-gatherers of the Palouse had a spiritual chant they would sing whenever they began their foraging expeditions across the wide swaths of grassland prairie and rolling hills found in that region. The chant went like this:

      Fight, fight, fight for Washington State!
      Win the victory!
      Win the day for Crimson and Gray!
      Best in the West,
      We know you'll do your best,
      On, on, on, on! Fight to the end!
      Honor and Glory you must win!
      Fight, fight, fight for Washington State
      And victory!

  3. Thank you for diving deeper into sources of info that are available for public consumption. Having worked myself as atmospheric scientist for NOAA, U of W and other gov't organizations, I have great respect for the science output of our gov't in general. This includes the folks who put together the Drought Monitor, as well as Dr. Mass. In some of the earlier blogs, where the Seattle Times and Drought Monitor were linked together, some readers might assume that both gov't scientists and newspaper journalists base their reports on anything but facts! In a time where a mistrust of science is common, I don't like to think that Dr. Mass, himself a gov't funded scientist, would attack the output of his colleagues in the same way he insults newspapers. The local TV stations and newspapers commonly slant their info to appease their bosses and readers, but professional scientists do not. And today's blog, where real drought relevant data is presented, and not just opinions, shows that.

    1. Dee.... I agree that government scientists generally do good work. But in the case of Drought Monitor, the results have been subjective and disappointing....cliff

    2. River/Stream flows are peaking right now, like they do every year (at different peak levels). So, are you using this weeks peak flows to argue about drought level in E. WA. If so, tell your readers what you are doing. Check them in Aug/Sept, as you know they will be lower. Also, La Nina spring in June is skewing a lot of indicators.

  4. Hi Cliff, can you comment on the discrepancy between the NOAA Climate Prediction forecasts for the long term which are suggesting more cool/wet weather and weather.com and windy.com Euro model that are predicting after 6/24 we are going into a dry sunny warm phase?

  5. The Columbia River is raging. Lake Roosevelt is approaching capacity and is forecasted to be full in days. There could be epic spilling at Grand Coulee. Downstream from Portland the Columbia max rate of flow is well over 600,000 cubic feet per second and could hit 700,000 cfs. There are 7.48 gallons per cubic foot, so that rate in gallons is 4.779 millions gallons per second. That equates to 286.7 millions gal per minute, 17.2 billion per hour and over 412 billion gallons of water per day. According to the USGS in 2015 the USA used 322 billion gallons per day.

    1. Yep, just recently viewed the Columbia right before it arrives at the bridge near Hood River, never have seen it this turbulent, when the snowmelt finally arrives it could indeed be epic. Additionally, the flows coming downstream into the Wiliamette are extemely high for this late in the season, the water levels near the bridges here in Portland are getting quite high right now.

  6. To a man with a hammer, all the world looks like a nail.

  7. Birthday Weather Challenge. Totally unrelated to your blog. A total long-shot but I will give it a go anyway. Tomorrow, Flag Day, June 14 is my 70th birthday. Would like to know what my absolute best birthday weather day has been in my ENTIRE LIFE. All lived in Auburn, WA. My dream weather day would be a high around 80F, low humidity, no cloud cover, a nice breeze would be preferable, no moon so I can observe one or two planets using a telescope around midnight. Thank you.
    If you also want to send a gift, I would love you newest Weather of the Pacific Northwest edition. I have had your original since publication day #1. It's worn out.😒 I want to pass the earlier edition on to my grandson. 😊 Thank you

  8. I can attest to the fact there is no drought up here in NE Washington. I live in Ferry county and since the end of last August we have received massive amounts of precipation. The ground here is highly saturated, Creeks are all running at capacity, still have snow melting out of the hills, and the rain is never ending. I have a near surface dug well thats above the bed rock. It has nearly 10 feet of water in it and rising. And onlive on a ridgeline! How much more does it take for the NWS to say there isn't a drought? I have tracked the precip every month and since end of August I think it was all but two were above 100% average for Republic.


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