Drought Conditions in the US Eased by Heavy Rainfall Amidst Concerns of Ongoing Vulnerability
Heavy Rainfall Provides Respite from Severe Drought Conditions in the US Pacific Northwest
According to nbcnews.com, an atmospheric river storm brought heavy rain to the Pacific Northwest, potentially ending the wildfire season and providing relief from extreme drought conditions in the US. The rain, which included nearly an inch falling in 24 hours in the Seattle area, followed a call for water conservation due to dwindling supplies caused by the region-wide drought.
While flash flooding was possible near the Oregon-California border, river flooding wasn’t forecasted due to the severity of the drought conditions in the US Pacific Northwest. Over 43% of Washington and 27% of Oregon have been experiencing “severe drought” or worse, according to the U.S. drought monitor.
Meteorologists anticipate that several days of soaking rain will help quell the wildfire season in western parts of both states particularly in areas with high fire danger ratings, alleviating drought conditions in the US. This comes as a sense of relief following wildfires that erupted in extremely dry and windy conditions in August, resulting in fatalities and property damage.
Ongoing Vulnerability to Climate-Driven Weather Patterns and Drought Conditions in the US
Although the rain offers temporary respite, concerns about the ongoing drought conditions in the US persist, especially with the approach of an El Niño winter known for dry conditions in the region. Atmospheric rivers, like the one bringing relief, are moisture plumes originating in the tropics and can drive extreme weather patterns in California, Oregon, and Washington.
Climate change exacerbates their impact due to the atmosphere’s increased capacity to hold and transport moisture. Last winter, California experienced a series of atmospheric river storms, causing landslides and flooding.
While the recent storm is seen as a Category 4 event by the Center for Western Water and Extremes, categorized as extreme, it provides hope for replenishing water supplies in drought-affected areas while underlining the ongoing vulnerability to climate-driven weather patterns and drought conditions in the US.