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Pacific Northwest DEWS Drought & Climate Outlook Webinar: February 27, 2023

Event Date
February 27, 2023
Event Time
11:00 am - 12:00 pm

These webinars provide the region's stakeholders and interested parties with timely information on current and developing drought conditions, as well as climatic events like El Niño and La Niña. Speakers will also discuss the impacts of these conditions on things such as wildfires, floods, disruption to water supply and ecosystems, as well as impacts to affected industries like agriculture, tourism, and public health.

Note: A glitch in the recording appears later in the video that caused the audio and visuals to be out of sync. We apologize for this issue.


Webinar Introduction

Speaker: Britt Parker, NOAA's National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and University of Colorado-Boulder/Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES)

  • This bi-monthly webinar is co-hosted by NIDIS, the USDA Northwest Climate Hub, and the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute (OCCRI).
  • Introduction of today's speakers:
    • Zach Hoylman, Montana Climate Office/University of Montana
    • Brent Bower, National Weather Service, Seattle Weather Forecast Office
    • Janelle Christensen, USDA Northwest Climate Hub 
    • Justin Chambers, Western Regional Climate Center, Desert Research Institute
  • Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS)



Climate Recap & Current Conditions

Speaker: Zach Hoylman, Montana Climate Office/University of Montana

  • Temperatures: It's been much cooler than normal over the last 90 days across the majority of the Pacific Northwest, especially in portions of Idaho. 
    • The last 30 days have been more moderate, but still below average (especially in Idaho).
  • Precipitation: 90-day precipitation has generally been drier than normal, especially along the northern two-thirds of Oregon, western Idaho, and western Washington.
    • There has been significantly less precipitation than normal over the last 30 days across Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.
  • These conditions and recent deficits are contributing to:
    • Reduced soil moisture.
    • Reduced streamflow, especially along the Washington/Oregon Cascades.
    • However, snowpack is showing encouraging accumulations so far, but we have a long way to go before melt! 



Seasonal Conditions & Climate Outlook

Speaker: Brent Bower, National Weather Service, Seattle Weather Forecast Office

  • Drought conditions have improved some areas (Washington, eastern Oregon) and deteriorated in others (northern Idaho, Western Oregon, & western Montana) over the past 2 months.
  • La Niña is diminishing and will likely be in neutral conditions in the next couple of months.
  • The last of the three La Niñas has not looked typical for snowpack and storms, with modest snow in the north and much heavier snow in the south.
  • The outlook is for:
    • Cooler conditions to persist
    • Wetter conditions to wane
    • Continued drought improvement.
  • The Wildland Fire Outlook is neutral.



Snow 101: How It’s Measured, How We Monitor It, Common Confusions, and Impacts from Climate Change

Speaker: Janelle Christensen, USDA Northwest Climate Hub

  • Snow is important for water supply in the northwestern U.S.
  • There are several ways to measure and monitor it, each of which provides a slightly different context for managers.
  • Common points of confusion often happen when looking at the percent of normal map for early- and late-season snowpack. It is important to remember that the percent of normal map is comparing the value of the current day with the historic median of the same day. It does not show cumulative totals in the same way the water year graphs do. It is also important to remember that drought can persist, even with a heavy snowpack.
  • Climate change is impacting snow in the Northwest, which will have impacts on water supplies for humans and wildlife, wintertime recreation, and water management, among others.



WestWide Drought Tracker Demonstration

Speaker: Justin Chambers, Western Regional Climate Center, Desert Research Institute

  • Link to the new WestWide Drought Tracker.
  • Login is required, but accounts are free.
  • The web app provides access to over 2 million maps (with many more added each month!).



Conclusion and Q&A

Speaker: Britt Parker, NOAA/NIDIS; CU Boulder/CIRES