PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Sporadic November rain has brought mild drought relief to Northwest Oregon as the state has remained in some form of drought since the fall of 2019.
If Oregon manages to receive above-average rainfall and a normal amount of snow during the 2023-2024 wet season, state climatologist Larry O’Neill told KOIN 6 News that Oregon could fully recover from the ongoing drought.
“We would need above-normal precipitation and at least a normal snowpack,” O’Neil said. “We are in drought now in northwest Oregon because we received about 80% of [our] average precipitation last winter and spring even though the snowpack was well above average.”
However, with the West Coast in the throes of an El Niño season, that added precipitation may be unlikely. KOIN 6 meteorologist Josh Cozart reports that The Pacific Northwest usually falls short of average rainfall levels during an El Niño as warmer ocean currents push the jet stream toward the Southwest. However, the last El Niño resulted in above-average snowfall in Portland in 2018 and 2019, making the upcoming season difficult to predict.
“The late summer and early fall rain we’ve received is [very] beneficial,” O’Neil said. “Especially in the mountains, since it recharges the soils, which dries out during summer before the ground freezes.”
For now, experts are still predicting a mild winter.
Yes, El Niño is still expected to make the winter overall drier,” Cozart said. “However, November is sitting above average for rainfall so far with a surplus of 1.89 inches from Nov. 1 to the 15th. This is a great example of an outlying event in the overall trend of a ‘drier’ winter. It is possible that Portland could see below-average precipitation from every winter month moving forward. That would make November’s surplus not as exciting.”