PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Like water melting from a frozen peak and running into a stream, Oregon’s snowpack has been sliding downhill for the past several weeks. 

Less than two months ago, the entire state had above-average snowpack. 

The Willamette region had snowpack levels at or above 189% of median levels on April 10, 2023. The Umatilla/Walla Walla/Willow region was at 155% of median levels. 

Now, on June 6, 2023, the state snowpack map shows a very different picture. 

Map shows Oregon’s snowpack levels on June 6, 2023. Courtesy USDA, NRCS

The Willamette region is at 80% of its median snowpack levels and the Umatilla/Walla Walla/Willow region is at just 8%. 

Only the Rogue, Umpqua; Klamath; and Lake County, Goose Lake regions still remain above their median snowpack levels. 

“Snowmelt in our mountains is normal as we turn into our hotter months. But recent warmer-than-normal weather has amplified that melting at a faster pace,” explained KOIN 6 News Meteorologist Kelley Bayern. 

May 2023 was the hottest May on record since 1940, which caused the snow to melt faster than it usually does. June also began with temperatures well above normal, with highs in the 80s and 90s. 

“We can continue to expect excessive melting in this unusually hot pattern,” Bayern said. 

Already, small brush fires have sparked in parts of Oregon and Southwest Washington. 

In April, Erica Fleishman, director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute and a professor at Oregon State University, warned that if the rain stopped and the temperature rose rapidly, wildfire risk conditions could quickly return.  

It all depends on how moist the plants are and how dry the air is in wildfire-prone areas, and the likelihood of an ignition. 

The Oregon Climate Change Research Institute doesn’t have any predictions of what to expect during the 2023 wildfire season, but Fleishman said over the last several decades, trends show that there have been more frequent and somewhat larger wildfires. 

On Tuesday, high temperatures climbed to the 90s and wind gusts in the Portland area will reach 20 mph by the afternoon and evening. Tuesday also marks the 21st consecutive day Portland has gone without rain.

Bayern said these hot and dry conditions will continue to dry out a lush landscape. 

Temperatures are expected to return to the mid- to high-70s by Friday.