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‘Incredibly dry’ Washington to heat up

Federal forecasters predict much-above normal temperatures in Washington and elsewhere in the first half of September
Don Jenkins

Capital Press

Published on August 30, 2017 11:17AM

Corn grows in a dry field Aug. 29 in southwest Washington. The federal Climate Prediction Center forecast temperatures far above normal in Washington during the first half of September.

Don Jenkins/Capital Press

Corn grows in a dry field Aug. 29 in southwest Washington. The federal Climate Prediction Center forecast temperatures far above normal in Washington during the first half of September.

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Washington, already described in the USDA’s latest crop report as “incredibly dry,” likely will experience temperatures much-above normal for the first 10 days of September, the National Weather Service warned Tuesday.

The agency’s Climate Prediction Center’s “hazardous outlook” for heat also included most of Oregon, Idaho and Northern California, but the probability of soaring temperatures are particularly high in Washington, according to the center.

The state already has been going through one of its hotter and drier summers on record. July was drier than in 2015, when Washington suffered a severe statewide drought. In a report released Monday, the USDA said that some corn fields are not developing and pastures are rapidly drying.

“The state as a whole has been incredibly dry and many of the operations were hoping for some rain to alleviate the dry conditions,” according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

A wet winter and spring washed away drought conditions for much of the West, but those conditions are creeping back in, especially in Idaho and Washington.

The U.S. Drought Monitor last week classified 17 percent of Idaho in a “moderate drought,” up from 4 percent the week before. A section of northeast Washington, making up 2 percent of the state, was also classified as in a moderate drought, the first time any part of Washington has been designated in a drought since October.

Washington State Assistant Climatologist Karin Bumbaco said Tuesday that this summer has resembled 2015, but the conditions are comparatively favorable.

“The streams are still looking decent in a lot of places,” she said. “If we return to fall rains, we’ll be fine.”

Sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, a key indicator of the region’s coming weather, are expected to be neutral this winter. Bumbaco said making long-range climate forecasts will be difficult. “There’s not a strong signal one way or the other,” she said.

Two-thirds of the streams monitored by the U.S. Geological Survey in Washington were running at normal or above-normal levels on Tuesday. Yakima River Basin reservoirs held 112 percent of the average amount of water for the date, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The Washington Department of Ecology in August issued curtailment notices to a total of 108 irrigators in the Chehalis and Similkameen basins and warned 75 other irrigators in three basins about possible water shortages.

Still, it’s unlikely the state will move toward declaring a drought, Ecology drought coordinator Jeff Marti said.

“It’s an interesting disparity between our water-supply picture, and the dry summer we’ve had,” he said. “It goes to show our tank got filled up pretty well this winter and spring.”

Clark County, Wash., farmer Bill Zimmerman said Wednesday that an extended growing season in Western Washington may help some crops, but a heat wave could have lingering effects. He said his raspberries produced a good crop after struggling through a wet spring, but are now suffering in the heat. “I say we could see about a 60 percent loss for next year,” he said.



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