CORVALLIS, Ore. — A new report indicates that almost 75 percent of Oregon is in severe drought, and scientists are worried about this winter’s trends.
“Three of our wettest months are usually November, December, and January,” said Kathie Dello, the Deputy Director of Oregon Climate Service at Oregon State University. “We’ve seen a dry November and December, and now we’re seeing a dry January. And now we’re starting to worry about it.”
The U.S. Drought Monitor released its latest numbers on Thursday, showing nearly 75 percent of Oregon is considered to be in severe drought, as opposed to less than 5 percent a year ago.
“It can be a very costly natural disaster,” she said. “And it’s not as flashy as a storm or a hurricane, but it’s one of these long term things that certainly impacts lots of people financially.”
She says though the past few winters have been relatively dry, this winter is different.
“This is pretty rare. The snow numbers are low. Stream flows are low. And we did get some rain last week but it just wasn’t enough.”
Dello says 2013 was the fourth driest year on record in Oregon. But this winter, the entire West Coast is suffering from a dry spell. In Sacramento, the city is enforcing water restrictions. Though Dello says Oregon is not at that point yet, if the state doesn’t see more rain, farmers are going to suffer because of the lack of water for irrigation.
“The price of food would maybe go up,” she said. “We would see production decrease.”
But day-to-day activities might be limited over the summer too.
“You might not be able to go floating down the stream or fishing might be poor because stream flows are low,” Dello said.
Dello says though global climate change impacts regional areas, she does not think it is time to start jumping to conclusions about why Oregon is seeing a severe drought.
“We wouldn’t look at one summer or one year and say: this is happening because of climate change,” she said. “But we can start to have a conversation about will there be more droughts in the future? Will wildfires increase? What does it mean if we have depleted snow pack?”
Regardless, winter still is not over.
“There’s still some time to make it up,” Dello said. “Each year plays out a little differently.”