El Nino

Droughts in the Pacific Northwest are receding.

Washington is now free of “severe” drought, though nearly one-third of the state remains in a “moderate” drought, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported Thursday.

Rain has raised stream levels, but drought persists in parts of Western and north-central Washington because the year still has been dry, Washington State Assistant Climatologist Karin Bumbaco said.

The regions will need more precipitation to catch up and ensure stream flows stay high, she said. “The drought now is really reflective of some of the long-term deficits.”

Also Thursday, the Climate Prediction Center, within the National Weather Service, reported that the odds slightly favor warm weather for the next three months in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Northern California.

“Average” is based on temperatures between 1981 and 2010. Thursday’s outlook was primarily based on a decade-long trend toward higher temperatures, according to the center.

The precipitation outlook in most parts of the Northwest and Northern California favors average amounts of rainfall.

Pacific Ocean temperatures along the equator are neither cool nor warm. The neutral conditions deprive forecasters of their main clue for seasonal outlooks.

Washington’s first declared drought since 2015 peaked early in the summer. In mid-June, the Drought Monitor classified 55% of the state in drought, including 16% in severe drought. In early September, 5% remained in severe drought.

Through August, 2019 was on pace to be Washington’s eighth driest year on record. August and July precipitation statewide, however, was in the average range.

“Just having a normal summer for Washington state kept the drought from getting worse,” Bumbaco said.

Oregon’s mild drought — confined to the Portland area and Willamette Valley — also retreated. The percentage of the state in drought dropped to 4% from 6.5%, according to the Drought Monitor.

The tip of Idaho’s panhandle remains in moderate drought. California is drought-free.

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