Three Recent Flavors of Drought in the Pacific Northwest

TitleThree Recent Flavors of Drought in the Pacific Northwest
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsBumbaco, K. A., and P. W. Mote
Date PublishedSep

In common with much of the western United States, the Pacific Northwest (defined in this paper as Washington and Oregon) has experienced an unusual number of droughts in the past decade. This paper describes three of these droughts in terms of the precipitation, temperature, and soil moisture anomalies, and discusses different drought impacts experienced in the Pacific Northwest (PNW). For the first drought, in 2001, low winter precipitation in the PNW produced very low streamflow that primarily affected farmers and hydropower generation. For the second, in 2003, low summer precipitation in Washington (WA), and low summer precipitation and a warm winter in Oregon (OR) primarily affected streamflow and forests. For the last, in 2005, a lack of snowpack due to warm temperatures during significant winter precipitation events in WA, and low winter precipitation in OR, had a variety of different agricultural and hydrologic impacts. Although the proximal causes of droughts are easily quantified, the ultimate causes are not as clear. Better precipitation observations in the PNW are required to provide timely monitoring of conditions leading to droughts to improve prediction in the future.