Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The Seattle Times Says Washington State is in a Serious Drought. Is this True? – Watts Up With That?

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From the Cliff Mass Weather Blog

Cliff Mass

It is more than a little disturbing when a major regional newspaper (the Seattle Times) provides demonstrably inaccurate and deceptive weather and climate information.

But yesterday, the infamous Seattle Times ClimateLab did it again.

The first lines of the article describe the past year in apocalyptic terms:

Virtually every aspect of life in Washington suffered during last year’s drought. 

Groundwater wells ran dry, fields produced fewer crops, trees died in greater numbers, fish faced disease and famine

And the next paragraph paints a very dark picture of our future:

Now those sectors are bracing for yet another poor water year as El Nino conditions, compounded by climate change, produced well below normal snowpack. The state also has recently hit record-high temperatures for this time of year.

The state’s water woes will continue, even worsen, in the decades ahead.

Has the state been in a terrible drought that has seriously impacted agriculture, causing fish to face famine, and causing regional water shortages?  And are other claims of this article true, such as high temperatures causing terrible losses in the State’s cherry crops?

Most of the claims are factually wrong.

The article was accompanied by a picture of a Rattlesnake Lake, which looked like a scene from the moon.   They did not mention that this is an artificial lake controlled by Seattle Public Utilities.

So are we in some terrible drought that caused state agriculture to fail?

Absolutely not.  The 2023 state apple crop was huge under near-perfect conditions (28% above 2022).  Apples are the state’s number one crop.

The number two WA crop is milk and 2023 tied the record-breaking amounts in 2022.

The number three WA crop is potatoes, which had a 9.5% increase over 2022.

Doesn’t sound like agriculture took too much of a hit from the Seattle Times’s drought.

But what about the cherry crop you ask?  The Seattle Times states:

sudden melt-off (of snow in May 2023) sent the state’s sweet cherry growers into an early harvest, causing perhaps $100 million in losses.

It turns out the truth was a bit different.  The Washington State cherry crop was very large and high quality.  The problem was the cool, wet weather resulted in a bumper, late crop in California that suppressed prices.  

So low that Washington cherry farmers left a lot of the crop on the trees. So it was the OPPOSITE of drought in California that caused problems for Washington State farmers.  Lots of snow and rain in the “Golden State”

The Seattle Times describes famine times for fish, but salmon returns were UP for all areas of Washington State.

So are we in a drought right now?

The accumulated precipitation at Seattle for the past year is nearly normal (green is this  year, brown is normal):

Portland was wetter than normal.

What about Yakima on the eastern Cascades slopes?  Near normal.

Doesn’t look like much of a drought. Yes, the snowpack is less this year because temperatures were warmer than normal for a while (due to El Nino, NOT climate change).  

But the amount of water falling from the sky was near normal and many reservoirs stored more water than usual.

Seattle’s reservoirs are above normal (see below)

And the same is true for Everett’s large Spada Lake reservoir:

Surely, if the Seattle Times is correct, river levels would be at very low “drought” levels.

Maybe not.  The streams on the “dry” eastern slopes of the Cascades are running high (see below).  Nearly normal streamflow conditions on the western slopes of the Cascades.  The only streams running low are around the South Sound area.

In summary, Seattle Times ClimateLab articles are not doing anyone a favor by telling tall tales about drought and climate change.  El Nino conditions are evident right now, with low snowpack but near normal precipitation.   Agriculture is not collapsing.  Precipitation is near normal.  

Truth matters.  Or at least it should.

H/T  bru92

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