Since June 14th, it has been exceptionally dry in the North Sound. The only decent rainfall of late occurred on August 7th and 8th, breaking a 51-day dry streak.
The very dry weather has resulted in much drier soils, lower river runoff, drier foliage, and heightened wildfire conditions. The North Sound has seen its share of roadside and other fires that fire response crews have jumped on to extinguish before they got out of hand.
One key measure of how dry the North Sound is the Drought Monitor. You may have seen this chart released each week on TV or other news and online sources. Compared to earlier this spring and the latest chart for Washington, it is clear the region has gotten much drier and moved into abnormally dry or moderate drought conditions.
The latest extended weather outlook does not offer much if any relief as well with dry conditions expected heading into September.
The Drought Monitor is released each Thursday by a team of organizations. These organizations include the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
Not only do wildfire agencies use the Drought Monitor, but many others also use the weekly chart as well. Examples include the Farm Service Agency, along with a number of state, local, tribal and basin-level decision-makers, particularly for drought response actions.
The Drought Monitor is created using a number of tools and inputs such as the Palmer Drought Index, the Standardized Precipitation Index, and other climatological inputs based on soil moisture, hydrologic data plus snowpack information, and vegetation health. The Drought Monitor provides a current assessment of how dry conditions are and is not a forecast.
The trend of drought conditions offered from week to week with the Drought Monitor provides a sense of how conditions are evolving over time. That trend is what organizations use to make key decisions such as water usage to help mitigate changing drought conditions.
You can follow the Drought Monitor as well and watch the trends. When the fall rains arrive, the North Sound’s dry conditions should ease. But until then, efforts to avoid wildfires must continue.