drought

Can the ‘Godzilla’ El Niño’ solve California’s drought problem?

Jan 22, 2016
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 Image by Airborne Snow Observatory program, NASA/JPL, California Institute of Technology

The Los Angeles River has once again come to life, supercharged with rainwater. Freeways have flooded. And California’s Sierra Nevada mountains — the so-called “snowy mountains” — are living up to their name.

This is all thanks to the huge ocean-atmosphere event Jet Propulsion Laboratory climatologist Bill Patzert is calling a “Godzilla El Niño.”

When summer began this year, signs weren’t good for water in the Willamette River Basin.

Record low snow packs had already melted, spring precipitation was well below average, and — for some cities — it had been the hottest June on record.

By the time summer was over, the Detroit Lake Reservoir had dried up to an unprecedented level. And according to the Department of Agriculture, Oregon is still experiencing severe drought.

KUOW photo/Anna King

David Hyde speaks with Northwest News Network reporter Anna King about what kind of season Washington's wine industry saw this year. 

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The latest El Niño forecast report is out from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and it looks like the drought will continue into next year for most of Washington.

Seattle Public Utilities says its dams are about three-quarters full.
Flickr photo/Konstantin Stepanov (CC BY 2.0)

Way to go, Seattle and Tacoma and Everett. You’ve cut your water use by 14 percent over the past eight weeks. That handily beat the goal of the region’s city water managers of a 10 percent reduction.

The bad news, the cities said Wednesday, is that typical fall rains still haven't arrived (despite the drizzle outside) to end the drought gripping Washington state.

Paper or plastic? If you're at a restaurant in the coastal city of Fort Bragg, Calif., that's what your food is likely to be served on these days.

The drought-stricken city, located about 170 miles north of San Francisco, recently declared a "stage 3" water emergency, which makes it mandatory for businesses and residents to reduce water usage.

In Napa, Calif., a company called Free Flow Wines fills and dispenses reusable wine kegs, which are used by restaurants and bars for serving wine on draft. Every month, the company rinses and refills about 10,000 of the stainless steel casks, each of which eliminates the need for 26 clunky wine bottles.

This is a small win for the environment, since glass bottles are heavy and require energy to ship.

In some areas of the Northwest, dryland farmers are getting impatient. They need rain to plant winter wheat.

Northwest Drought Likely To Extend Into 2016

Sep 24, 2015

Don't be fooled by the recent rain and cooler temperatures. Most of Oregon and Washington are still experiencing severe or extreme drought.

With many of the region's reservoirs and streams still far below normal and a warm winter on tap, experts are predicting this year's drought will likely continue into next year.

Smoke from wildfires in the Northwest stream in this photo taken from the International Space Station.
NASA

Marcie Sillman speaks with Sarah Mirk, online editor for Bitch Media, about what Portlanders are doing in response to Oregon's drought. (Hint: not much.)

This is the second story in our two-part series on how drought and climate change are changing the way the Northwest looks to reservoirs to meet its water needs. Read part one here.

This summer’s hot, dry weather has left Northwest apple growers hurting for water to irrigate their orchards. It’s a hint at what’s predicted as the climate continues to warm.

The giant sequoias in the Sierra Nevada are one of America's treasures, but for the first time in Sequoia National Park's history, the trees are showing visible signs of exhaustion due to the drought.

On a hike last summer, a scientist noticed that the needles of the giant sequoias were browning and more sparse than usual. This finding got ecologists thinking: Did the drought cause this?

Kim Malcolm talks with Seattle Parks and Recreation superintendent Jesús Aguirre about how the city is cutting back on water use to help head off a water shortage.

Ross Dam on the Skagit River is one of Seattle City Light's major power generation sites.
Seattle City Light

Seattle’s electric utility says it's taking a big financial hit because of the weather: The lack of rain has affected its ability to produce surplus power to sell in the open market.

Its revenue from selling that surplus is down more than 40 percent, KUOW has learned.

'The Blog' is indicated by dark orange on the West Coast of the U.S. The Blob is a patch of warm water that was detected by a University of Washington climatologist in 2013.
Courtesy of Nick Bond

Call it “The Blob.”

It’s an unusually warm patch of water off the West Coast that has flummoxed climatologists.

“It’s still rearing its ugly head,” said Nick Bond, Washington state climatologist and regular contributor to KUOW. He first detected The Blob in 2013. 

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