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Western weather is a month ahead of the calendar

By Eric Mortenson

Capital Press

Published on November 15, 2016 2:44PM


Is it Christmas yet? The weather patterns rolling across the Pacific Northwest and Northern California seem out of sync with the calendar, an environmental science professor said.

Gregory Jones, a Southern Oregon University professor who tracks weather and climate data, said the past year was seemingly off by a month in temperature — March was like April, June was like July, and so on. And now the storms and rain of October were more typical of November.

Things usually balance out over time, but the amount of snow and rain that fell in October was 150 percent to 400 percent of normal in many parts of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Northern California, Jones reported in a monthly update he emails to subscribers.

The best result of the deluge is that significant portions of the four states “have all seen drought conditions removed,” Jones said.

In Pacific County, October rainfall of nearly 18 inches set a new all-time record for the month at the Washington State University research station on Pioneer Road. Things have dried out a little in November, with 5.2 inches recorded by WSU through Nov. 14.

The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service tweeted that one of its automated monitoring stations, on the North Fork of the Bull Run River on the flanks of Oregon’s Mount Hood, measured 33.5 inches of rain in October — 298 percent of normal. The previous October record at that spot was 23.2 inches, in 1990.

The October rain and snow flushed out and reinvigorated river systems and recharged soil moisture, Jones said. Reservoir levels jumped up and water levels in farm storage ponds increased as well, he said.

“Hopefully we’ll have more of that in winter and a reasonable snowpack, too,” he said.

Jones said the extreme wet pattern probably won’t last. Statistically, a wet early winter is followed by dry conditions in the second half of winter, he said. Dry conditions often lead to harder freezes and frosts, which could be a concern to Northwest farmers after fairly “benign” springs the last several years, he noted.

Meanwhile, climate scientists and weather forecasters are keeping an eye on conditions in the North Pacific Ocean, where colder water is building. A colder ocean would likely mean a colder and wetter winter for the northern tier of the U.S. from California’s Bay Area east to the Mid-Atlantic, Jones said.



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