April 06, 2023

A Dry Winter for Washington State But Not For the Rest of the West Coast: But Change is Coming!

If one looks at the precipitation for the winter season (the water year starting October 1), as shown below, the north-south contrasts have been profound.   California and the Southwest have been hugely wetter than normal (some places enjoying over 250% of typical winter precipitation), while much of Washington and portions of Oregon have received 70-100% of typical values.

During the past month, the differences have been starker, with much of Washington State receiving 50-70% of normal precipitation, while Oregon and California have been very wet (see below).

As I will discuss in a future blog, these wet conditions have significant implications for the upcoming wildfire season, since they will promote the bountiful growth of seasonal grasses, which inevitably dry out during summer.   The wet conditions in California have decidedly terminated the short-term drought there.  

  Although Washington State has been drier than normal, it has been colder than normal.  The result is the preservation of our snowpack (see below).  Thus, the regional snowpack is in very good shape (near normal in WA, above normal in Oregon).  California has a crazy high snowpack.

But as we go later into spring, the tendency for the jet stream to push back to the north is powerful.  And that will be very good for water resources over Washington and British Columbia.

Precipitation is already moving in from a weak system (see radar image below)

But this is only a meteorological "appetizer" for the main weather event.  A relatively potent atmospheric river will arrive on Sunday (see the plume of water vapor for Sunday afternoon)

And the result will be considerable precipitation over the region (see the totals through 5 PM Sunday).  Southwest BC will get hit particularly hard.

With a reasonable snowpack and upcoming precipitation, the water situation this summer appears reasonable.


It's Husky Giving Day at the University of Washington, and if anyone wishes to contribute to the Atmospheric Sciences Department go here.


Reminder:  for those interested in giving a talk at the Northwest Weather Workshop in May, please send me a title/abstract soon.


  1. Whether or not the additonal precipitation this Spring alleviates the somewhat dry conditions, we already know that it won't matter to the caterwauling prophets of Climate Doom. Much like concrete, their minds are too set to ever change. Cognitive dissonance is a phenomenom that they will never countenance, even though conflicting data is the very essence of scientific discovery.

  2. Mist in the Ellensburg area -- all day. Likewise, east of the Columbia.
    Growers of all sorts are trying to trim, prune, and plant.
    This is much like riding a horse in a cold rain -- not a lot of fun.

  3. For what it's worth, as of April 7,2023, the calendar year precip total for BLI sits at the all-time record lowest for any calendar year-to-date on record. Furthermore, the same is true for the period from July 1 - April 7, for any year, and by a substantial margin.

    Also, for the Newhalem site, the current July 1 - April 7 precip total also constitutes the all-time record low for that period - indicating the relatively recent Whatcom County drought is not confined solely to western portions of the County,

    In other news, tonight's frontal system produced a 41mph gust (rather impressive by April standards) at my location in Bellingham.

  4. It was dry here in the last few months because the jet stream brought all the rain to California. Now that the jet is moving north, as it normally does every spring, we're getting in on the action. I've never seen much discussion on this blog for why the jet went so far south this year. Seems like the jet stream has lost its wiggle, it stays put for longer than it used to. Any ideas on this?

  5. It appears as though there's been another major shift in the weather forecast with the CPC 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks now going for drier than normal conditions for most of Washington along with near normal to above normal temperatures. Perhaps spring won't be so postponed as, recently, it seemed.

  6. Juan Browne, who runs the Blancolirio aviation safety channel, gives this update on the California water situation:

    California Water/Flooding UPDATE! 7 April 2023

  7. Ugh, it looks like this is from the perfect angle to leave the San Juans in the rain shadow. Pity: we could really use it.

  8. Sure doesn't seem all that dry in Tacoma. In fact, I think it was a couple days ago, it was quite wet for the entire day, finally letting up sometime late in the day or evening, I forget exactly. Awoke to it being quite wet, rain coming down pretty good and stayed mostly like that all day, not letting up until later.

    That said, much of the rain has not been substantial and the freezing levels stayed down near or at freezing up to about 2 weeks ago.

    I had checked my Fuschia and it had not sprung forth any green shoots yet, it normally begins to do so in March and that's when I cut it back and it happily regrows and sends out blooms mid summer through fall. Even the trees may be barely showing new leaves by now. I know the tree out front hasn't and it usually blooms a bit later than the 4 along the side of my house.

    I did, however, get my first grass cutting in last week or so, with the backyard on a warm, sunny afternoon midweek.


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