Extreme Drought to Continue Plaguing Western U.S. Through Winter Months

by Lauren Boisvert
(Photo by Sierralara/Getty Images)

The drought is here to stay for the winter, according to reports from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The western United States will especially be affected, as the drought is hitting that area the hardest.

The NOAA’s winter outlook was released on Thursday, Oct. 20, and according to the report, La Niña is returning for the third winter in a row. La Niña is an atmospheric phenomenon caused by naturally cooling seawater in the Pacific. This will result in warmer than average temperatures for the southwest, Gulf Coast, and eastern seaboard. Forecasters predict a dryer-than-average winter in the south, and a wetter-than-average one in the Ohio Valley, Great Lakes areas, northern Rocky Mountains, and the Pacific Northwest.

The NOAA, along with the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), is monitoring extreme drought conditions in the western United States.

“Drought conditions are now present across approximately 59% of the country, but parts of the Western U.S and southern Great Plains will continue to be the hardest hit this winter,” Jon Gottschalck, chief of the Operational Prediction Branch at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said in a statement. “With the La Niña climate pattern still in place, drought conditions may also expand to the Gulf Coast.”

In the southeast and along the Atlantic coast, winter temperatures will likely lean higher than normal. In the Pacific Northwest and around the western Great Lakes, however, temperatures are leaning lower than average. This winter, the drought will continue in much of California and other western states, but improve or end in the Pacific Northwest. The NOAA predicts drought will occur in the south-central and southeastern states this winter.

Severe Drought Conditions Continue in Seattle, But There May Be Relief On the Way

Seattle, Washington, specifically, has been seeing an incredibly intense drought for the past three months. June was unseasonably cold for the city, but the weather flipped in July. Since then, Seattle has been dry and scorching.

“Sunday [Oct. 16] was our latest […] 80-plus-degree day on record in Seattle,” said Maddie Kristell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle. On that day, the temperature reached 88 degrees. In Seattle. In October. Extremely unusual for this time of year.

Not only has October been sizzlingly hot, but it’s been dry as well. The drought has affected the city and most surrounding areas. And the wildfires aren’t helping, either. Right now there are 10 active wildfires in Washington State. These fires create horrible air quality that aids the drought in drying out the state.

Three months ago, only 8% of Washington was in drought, but that number has skyrocketed to 55%. “By now we should have definitely had some fall precipitation, but just haven’t yet,” Kristell told CNN. “Mostly due to a really persistent ridge of high pressure that really hasn’t budged appreciably in the last month and a half, arguably longer. So it’s been stubborn.”