October 4, 2012 in Washington Voices

As predicted, October drier than normal

Randy Mann

September 2012 has gone into the record books with no measurable precipitation, and just two days with trace amounts. Spokane usually gets 0.67 inches of precipitation in September. Since 1889, the only other years without measurable amounts of rain in September were 1990 and 1999. Because of the extreme dryness, fire danger levels are still high despite the cooler temperatures.

As I mentioned last week, when September is very dry, October is usually drier than normal as well. The latest long-range computer models show very little, if any, measurable moisture through the middle of the month, thanks to a strong ridge of high pressure locked in over the Western U.S. Normal precipitation at the airport for October is 1.18 inches.

We’re just getting started with the fall season, but this pattern is starting to look similar to the mid-1970s, when drought plagued the West Coast during the fall and winter months.

Believe it or not, it’s been drier across the Northwestern U.S. since July 20 than most areas in the Sahara Desert of North Africa. Seattle has been also drier than Cairo.

And it’s not just the Northwest that’s dry. This summer’s drought in the U.S. – one of the worst since the 1930s – continues to effect many cities and towns across the Great Plains. Although there has been some much-needed rain across the central U.S., drought conditions continue to expand. Nearly 84 percent of the High Plains has severe to extreme drought conditions, according to the Drought Monitor. In Oklahoma, nearly the entire state is under “extreme” drought.

South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Arkansas and Georgia are also experiencing severe, extreme or exceptional drought conditions. At least 30 states are expecting water shortages in 2013, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The Inland Northwest is not on that list at this point.

The upcoming new moon cycle in mid-October is the beginning of a new six-week weather cycle. If it turns wetter across the Inland Northwest and the current weak El Niño falls apart as some scientists now expect, we could see another cold, damp and perhaps a snowy winter season in our part of the country. But, if the stubborn high pressure ridge holds on to life after 13 weeks, and the El Niño doesn’t die off completely, we may see the current drought pattern last another three to six months.

If you have any questions or comments, contact Randy Mann at www.facebook.com/ wxmann.

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