December snow in the Cascades hasn't been enough to make up for a dry fall in Oregon and Washington, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported.
Some 32% of Washington and 24% of Oregon are in a "moderate" drought, according to the monitor. There was widespread rain and high-elevation snow across the Pacific Northwest in mid-December, but streamflows and snowpacks were still far below normal.
Drought conditions in both states are mostly in the Cascades. The snowpack in the Willamette basin was only 29% of normal on Dec. 27, while it 27% of normal in the Lower Columbia basin in Washington, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
In Washington, the snowpack statewide on Dec. 27 was 47% of normal, almost as low for the date as the 46% in 2014, the winter of the "snowpack drought."
NRCS water supply specialist Scott Pattee said that Washington typically has about half its snowpack by now.
The snowpack probably won't fully recover and be at full strength by the time it begins melting, but could reach about 80% of average if typical weather prevails for the next few months, he said.
"I think there's going to be some concern now, but not a lot," Pattee said. "January and February can be huge snow months for us."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that the Pacific Ocean along the equator remains slightly warmer than average. The agency does not expect the warm water to turn this winter into an El Nino.
Nevertheless, the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center predicts January, February and March will be warmer than average in most of Washington, Oregon and Northern California. The odds favor normal precipitation, according to the center.
The snowpack never recovered in 2014. By April 1, it was a record-low 22% of normal. A dry and hot summer followed, and Washington suffered a severe drought.
Warm temperatures caused the 2014 low snowpack. Precipitation was above normal. This year, the low snowpack has been caused by dry weather. As of Dec. 27, Washington had received only 69% of its normal precipitation so far this water water.
In Idaho, 11% of the state is in moderate drought, according to the drought monitor. California remains free of drought.