Oregon drought update heading into April


Below-normal rainfall increasing drought concerns across Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As we begin the new month today — it’s officially April, for those who haven’t checked the calendar — it brings a good moment to assess how much rain we’ve received through the rainy season.

The water year begins every October 1st; our current water year started last October in 2019. So far, we have observed below-normal rainfall over the past 6 months with a total of 7.36″ of missing rain compared to normal.

Aside from a very soggy January, every month since October has brought below-normal rainfall to Portland. PDX capped off March with a deficit of 1.25″ of rain. Much of the Pacific Northwest, including Washington, Idaho, western Montana and northern California received below-normal rain as well.

With the lack of rainfall since the start of the year, drought concerns across Oregon are starting to increase. As of March 24th, 84.6% of the state is under some status of drought (D0-D4). Roughly 8% of the state has moved into the severe drought category. That area remains mostly across the southern portions of Oregon.

Moving forward into spring, impacts to our water supply will become more noticeable if drought persists or becomes worse. Take a look at some of the common impacts across the state as gathered by the U.S. Drought Portal.

Rainfall is not the only contribution to a healthy and functional water supply. Seasonal snowfall acts as a reservoir for the region and “money in the bank,” as some hydrologists have put it.

As we move into spring and summer, Cascade snowpack melts and fills up our rivers and irrigation systems for use across the state. So far, Cascade snow pack (measured as snow-water equivalent) has moved to near normal amounts – a very positive thing to see. Spring snowfall in the Cascades can continue into May.

Even with below-normal rain totals, our healthy snow pack could supplement some of our missing rain for farmers later in the year.

Moving forward, climate models suggest the next three months will bring a greater probability for below-normal rainfall across the Pacific Northwest. The map below shows how areas of central and southern Oregon are at the greatest risk for a dry string of months ahead. It’s important to note that our region will still see rainy days here and there. But in general, our total rainfall may come in below normal from April to June.

Courtesy of NWS Climate Prediction Center

Stay tuned to the KOIN 6 weather team as we bring more updates to Oregon’s drought status moving into spring.

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They talk about the rain we need, snow in the mountains and lots of reasons to stay inside and practice safe social distancing.

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