How can we be in a drought with so much rain, and why are forecasters talking about it?

7pm Monday…

It’s a totally fair question I’ve been getting on social media and even on email…

WHY ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT DROUGHT AND RECORD RAINFALL AT THE SAME TIME? or…

HOW CAN WE POSSIBLY BE IN DROUGHT? MORE “FAKE MEDIA” WEATHER NEWS? (someone actually suggested that 2nd one)

Two answers:

1) The Portland television market is much larger than you think. We broadcast to temperate rain forests and also to very dry deserts. Some areas ARE in severe drought right now, but others (everywhere west of the Cascades) have plenty of water for the next few months. No drought here!

2) East of the mountains, regular rain & mountain snow has improved conditions slightly over the past 6 weeks. But it takes a long time to erase a 2-3 year long drought!

First, the USDA Drought Monitor shows the current extent of drought. NO drought from Eugene north to the Canadian border. We have plenty of water this year west of the Cascades. Notice the Cascades themselves are just fine too.

Now take a look at the Portland TV market viewing area. These are counties where Portland television is the dominant local TV news source. There are about 200 TV markets around the USA.

Portland TV Market
Portland TV Market

Notice it ends at Albany west of the Cascades (Eugene is its own TV market), and does not include Bend/Deschutes county east of the mountains. Yet it extends to Baker and Harney counties! “Gerrymander” is the word of the year, and it applies to our viewing area. All Portland TV stations focus on these areas. You’ll notice our forecasts generally cover these areas. Sometimes I’ve had people ask why we don’t forecast for Medford or Klamath Falls. That’s because they have their own TV stations down there.

Now lay that over the Drought Monitor and you see maybe 50% of our geographic viewing area is in drought. That said, only about 10% of our viewers live east of the Cascades. Something like 85% of our viewers live just in the I-5 corridor counties from Longview to Albany, thus our focus here. But we sure don’t want to leave those of you east of the mountains out of either forecasts or drought talk…and THAT is why we cover it.

Of course April and May HAS been cooler/wetter than normal east of the Cascades in the drought areas. Notice the foothills of the Blue Mountains (Umatilla River drainage) is in good shape now after lots of mountain snow and some rain events. But back in Central Oregon things are still very bad. Redmond picked up less than 1″ of rain since April 1st! Wickiup Reservoir is already dropping since irrigation season started last month. Prineville Reservoir is below last year (a drought year) and WAY below normal.

(Credit: USBR)

To summarize (again)

IF YOU LIVE OVER OR WEST OF THE CASCADES NORTH OF EUGENE there will be plenty of water this summer and we are not in a drought

IF YOU LIVE IN MOST OF THE REST OF OREGON a third year of water shortages, low reservoirs, & irrigation cutoffs has begun

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

58 Responses to How can we be in a drought with so much rain, and why are forecasters talking about it?

  1. tim says:

    Cliff mass new post and he’s still saying a la Nina summer with cooler then normal temps will he’s wrong the lastest cfs enso models have enso going neutral by july the bottom line it will Not be a la Nina summer and it will Not be cooler the normal, retire Cliff you were good in your your youth but old age has made you delusional.

  2. Weatherdan says:

    I just don’t take Pete Parsons seriously much any more. He is wrong much of the time. While this indeed may not be a blistering hot Summer I don’t necessarily think it will be be cool and rainy either. Rather a gradually warming Summer. A little cooler in June. Average in July and warm in August and September. Peace.

    • tim says:

      I find very hard to believe we’re gonna have a cool summer again it’s been ten years now since our last one and our climate has changed so much since then, can it happen yes but probably not in our lifetime just like 1950 winter probably won’t happen again in our lifetime.

      • Opie says:

        Of course a lot depends on how you define normal. For example June-August, 2020 at PDX:

        0.1 cooler than the 1991 – 2020 average
        0.5 warmer than the 1981 – 2010 average
        0.8 warmer than the average of all summers on record (1938 – 2021)
        1.3 warmer than the 1938 – 2000 average

        • Opie says:

          To me the third one is the most meaningful – how will summer 2022 compare with the average of the previous 84?

        • Anonymous says:

          I think the third one is most meaningful, because its how our summer compares to average of the last 84.

  3. Roland Derksen says:

    Nice to finally get that 70F maximum yesterday. That’s the latest in a year I’ve seen my first 70- the previous record was on May 19th in 2011. Looks like we’re back to showery weather however, by mid-week.

    • tim says:

      71 today at my house and yes I did turn on the AC for the first time this year it was 73 inside earlier.

  4. tim says:

    So I take it everyone on here is now convinced we’re gonna have a cooler then normal summer because of Pete Parsons and Cliff mass outlooks?, Except for me of course.

  5. tim says:

    A Nice warm day for a swim in the local lakes or rivers.

  6. Patrick b says:

    The wraparound showers an thunderstorms produced as expected, very impressive cumulonimbus clouds along the Cascade Range

  7. Anonymous says:

    high of 78 today with a low of 37 a little south of monmouth

    thats a 41 degre tempratur jump in 10 hours!

  8. tim says:

    Peter Parsons May update has us cooler then normal June through August based on his analogs but I don’t agree I’m expecting a hot then normal summer.

    • tim says:

      Hotter the normal.

    • Roland Derksen says:

      Hmmm- wonder why he has changed his mind?

      • tim says:

        It’s based on the current la Nina and past la Nina summer analogs.but some of the recent enso models like the cfs model now has la Nina weakening to cool neutral by july which Pete is not aware of apparently.

      • MasterNate says:

        He had to change his analog years because the years he was using were not tracking similarly to the current as far as the ONI and PDO were concerned. That’s why his May forecast of warmer than normal busted.

        • tim says:

          So are you saying you agree with Pete’s summer forecast?.

        • MasterNate says:

          I don’t agree or disagree. Its simply informational. I like his method for making his forecast as it is different than any other long range forecast method but anything longer than 5-7 days out almost always changes so….

  9. West Linn 200 says:

    Hmmm… not sure I’m convinced we’ll hit the predicted 80+ degrees next week that’s listed on the 7-day. That seems really high and the Euro ensemble doesn’t support it either.

    • Paul D says:

      The 80+’s have disappeared from the 7-day – WOOT!

      • Gene says:

        You are a very small minority

        • Joshua Lake Oswego says:

          Maybe not as much of a minority as you think.

        • Gene says:

          I don’t know, Joshua. I talk to a lot of people who want to go outside and feel the warm sun on their bodies after months of cool, cloudy, rainy weather. A slew of outdoor activities have had to be cancelled or delayed due to the weeks and weeks and weeks of this cold and soggy slog. I don’t know anyone — literally anyone — who’s saying, “hey, let’s have three more months of this before the inevitable fall rains set in.” You get your 8-9 months of clouds and rain, give the rest of us our 3-4 months of sun and warmth.

        • UGH says:

          Yeah I agree with everything you said Gene. Cool/cold, wet, cloudy days can stay in winter where they belong.

  10. Roland Derksen says:

    Yes, we’re having a nice break from the rain over the next few days. I might see the 70 degree Fahrenheit barrier finally broken here on Saturday or Sunday.

    • Roland Derksen says:

      Just loving this sunny day- not too warm yet, nice breeze, some picturesque Cb clouds on the horizon. Looks like we’ll reach that long anticipated 294.25K temperature for sure this weekend! 🙂

  11. Big Jim from SE PDX says:

    Is it tomato weather yet?

  12. JERAT416 says:

    Looks like a nice 7 day forecast. Not anything too warm , just comfortable especially after a long term cool, rainy pattern.

  13. lurkingsince’14 says:

    Finally some light at the end of the tunnel for the 7 day. This weekend can’t come soon enough 😎

    • tim says:

      This appears to be a large scale pattern change which could last for weeks the bottom line is spring is finally here.

      • Jimmy Johns says:

        I hope so because you’ve been saying this for about 2 months now. I guess a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.

      • MasterNate says:

        Not a pattern change at all. We will be on the North side of a transient ridge that will last longer than a 2 day ridge that we have been getting. Trough will reform over the PNW by next weekend and repeat through the foreseeable future. It will be a much needed break from the cold and rain and you will see a lot of farm activity taking place.

    • Andy says:

      Looks like 5- or 7-days of nicer weather maybe 70’s… then back to wet and cool heading into June…I have a feeling June will be a lot different than last year…

  14. Weatherdan says:

    65 and partly sunny at 3:56PM. Finally a nice dry stretch of warm and dry weather ahead. Maybe 80 on Sunday the 22nd. My vegetable garden is way behind, although the flowers are doing fine. As for this Summer I believe it will be warmer than average, but not as hot as last year. Peace.

  15. tim says:

    A warm sunny stretch Thursday through most of nextweek, maybe just maybe we finally turn the corner on this winter spring

    • tim says:

      La Nina has been rapidly weaking the past few days the 7 day anomaly is showing dramatic warming between region 3 to 4 on tropical tidbits, I’m not convinced it will be a la Nina summer I think cliff mass jumped the gun on that issue therefore a cool summer is unlikely 🙂.

    • Anonymous says:

      u say that now. In the july of 45tth u gonna want it back

  16. Roland Derksen says:

    Clearing skies and fairly gusty winds here this morning. I think the storm passed further north than expected- we only had light rain for a few hours. Good- I’ve seen enough for this month already, and I don’t need more!

    • Anonymous says:

      well you guna be beggin for it back once it gonna be 189 degres fairinhight on july 45th

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  18. OC550 says:

    Glad to see a lot of new green growth this Spring on many of the Douglas Fir trees. Was curious how they would bounce back after lots of trees were singed during the heatwave last June. They appear to be doing fine.

    • Anonymous says:

      well that wont last long i saw on the D2XHKS749J Indonesian model ensemble 493 from last year said this july will get 129, get ready

      • Paul D says:

        That sounds about as convincing as the Farmers Almanac.

        • Anonymous says:

          yea its almost as good as farmer almanac, which i persnoly love.

          but my favroite model is the botswana 48JTU7R8THJX8 model No 8472 which realeses 84729 different ensembles. Which realeses every 648th of Junetober at 3879:141 pm. ensemble 18641 from the last run (9 years ago) was predicting 189f on July 45th this year, so im getting pretty concernd, it also said 247f on December 87th 2054 which is getting scary, especially for december, but that’s what we should expect with the new climate trend

        • tim says:

          It will happen with climate change that’s why I’m building a underground city with a anti lava eruption gaurd.

  19. West Linn 200 says:

    According to Cliff Mass, that USDA Drought Monitor is bogus. Cliff raised some convincing points. Maybe one of these days, Mark will do a deeper analysis to that same effect.

    Also wow, the 7 day forecast could not look any more ideal to me. Perfect balance. This is what I’ve been waiting for all Spring!

  20. Opie says:

    Thanks Mark,
    I really enjoy your posts.

  21. Mark, I am on the WET side of things here in Port Orchard, Washington so that puts me outside the television market you are on.

    For the month of May I have gotten 3.55 inches of rain so far and it is only half a month.

    This year already I have 25.39 inches.

  22. fatherscottb says:

    I understand very well your point about viewing areas. I live in Brownsville (southern Linn County) and most of our live television weather forecasting comes out of Eugene (for the good reasons you mentioned). I notice though that the routine forecast area covered down here seems to go all the way over to the Coast (from about Newport southwards to Coos Bay/North Bend) then eastward to include the Cascades (with a glance sometimes as far as Bend, though, of course, the severe drought over there has gotten more attention deservedly) and then southward into Douglas County to Roseburg. My assumption is that farther South and East other stations take over the forecasting responsibility—or, as you point out for the NE portion of the State, it is you all in Portland! Thank you for the fine work you do. You are always interesting, and I usually learn something new, if only by observing patterns over time.

  23. Paul D says:

    Some people are only thinking of themselves. There’s more than just the PDX metro area people and just because it rains here doesn’t mean it’s raining across the entire state!

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