Oregon’s ‘extreme drought’ triples in size

Cattle graze this summer in a pasture in southwest Washington. August through June has been warm and dry in Washington and Oregon, leading to widespread drought conditions in both states.

Drought intensified in Oregon and Washington over the previous week, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported this week.

The percentage of Oregon gripped in “extreme drought” more than tripled to nearly 22 percent. In Washington, the percentage of the state in “severe drought” nearly tripled to 17 percent from 6.

A drier than normal winter and a warm and dry summer have caused problems in much of the West, according to a statement from the Drought Monitor.

“This was most notable in Oregon, where the combination of a poor winter snowpack and a hot and dry summer have produced widespread poor pasture and range conditions and very low stream flows and livestock ponds, and required water hauling, supplemental hay and delayed forest harvesting, along with reduced livestock herds,” according to the statement.

The Drought Monitor is a partnership between the USDA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The four categories of drought in order of severity are moderate, severe, extreme and exceptional.

Oregon and Washington have both had dry and warm summers. Drought conditions are more widespread and severe in Oregon because Washington had a wetter winter, according to the Drought Monitor.

The portion of Oregon in some stage of drought remained steady at 93 percent, but more areas on both sides of the state went from severe to extreme drought.

Ranchers in southwestern Oregon reported there was not enough water in creeks to run irrigation pumps and that livestock was moved off pastures because of low springs and ponds, the USDA reported in a weekly crop report.

Milder temperatures eased some of the drought stress. The cooler but still dry weather benefited ripening wine grapes and tree fruit, according to USDA.

More than half of Washington fell into some stage of drought for the first time this year. The percentage of the state in drought increased to 54 percent from 46 percent. All of Western Washington is in drought. Drought is most severe in the South Puget Sound area and southwest Washington. The entire state is at least “abnormally dry.”

“Those who have irrigation have been running day and night. Those without have stressed crops with reduced yield,” according to USDA’s crop report for Washington.

Drought conditions are less severe in Idaho and California and were little changed from the week before.

Some 30 percent of Idaho is some stage of drought, mostly modest drought. Some 48 percent of California is in drought, again mostly moderate drought.

NOAA reported Thursday that this year’s meteorological summer, June through August, in the U.S. was the fourth hottest on record, tying 1934. Records date back 124 years. The summer was the 20th wettest. The Great Plains and East Coast had above-average rainfall, according to NOAA.

Oregon had its ninth warmest and 24th driest meteorological summer, while Washington had its 13th warmest and 11th driest.

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