Dry July continues trend of below-average rainfall in WA
Aug 2, 2023, 7:33 AM | Updated: Aug 14, 2023, 2:15 pm
(Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
July was the fifth month so far in 2023 that was drier than normal across much of western Washington. With the exception of some rain on July 24, it has been bone dry since the summer solstice on June 21. April was the only month that had above-average rainfall so far this year.
The dry July rainfall statistics are in and reflect how dry the month was. Sea-Tac Airport only had nine-hundredths of an inch of rain, the sixth driest July on record going back to 1945. The driest July on record involved only a trace of rain, occurring in 2021, 2017, 2013, 1960, and 1958.
Other locations in western Washington were also quite dry in July. For instance, Olympia had but three-hundredths of an inch, the third-driest July on record – tied with 2004. The driest July ever in Olympia had only a trace of rain and occurred in 2021, 2013, 1984, 1960, 1958, and 1944.
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The Pacific coast also had well below-average rainfall. Hoquiam received just shy of three-quarters of an inch of rain and Forks an inch and a third.
For the calendar thus far, western Washington is well behind the year’s average precipitation totals. Along the Interstate 5 corridor, the rain deficit ranges from six to over nine inches. Along the coast, the rainfall shortage ranges from eight to over 17 inches.
Recently, the Washington Department of Ecology declared a drought emergency in 12 counties across the state including Clallam County, Whatcom County, and parts of Skagit, Snohomish, and Jefferson counties. The rest of the region remains in a drought advisory.
A drought emergency is declared when there is less than 75% of the normal water supply and a risk of undue hardship. Declaring a drought emergency allows Ecology to process emergency water rights permits and transfers. New legislation passed by the Washington Legislature this past spring also made $3 million in emergency drought funds available as grants to support communities, irrigation districts, tribes, and other public entities facing hardships.
In Whatcom County, some wells have dried up, and a few water systems are hauling water in by truck.
July also had warmer-than-average temperatures. Including all high and low temperatures during the month, Sea-Tac Airport was about 1.5 degrees above normal. Olympia and Bellingham were a degree warmer than average. Along the coast, Hoquiam was 2.5 degrees, and Forks was nearly four degrees above average.
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The latest seasonal weather outlook for the rest of the summer through September continues to show good chances of warmer and drier-than-average conditions. Besides the issue of local water supply shortages, the continued warm dry weather raises the risk of wildfires. Four out of five wildfires are started by humans. It remains important to avoid fire starts including keeping all burning materials in vehicles, ensuring campfires are cold before leaving, and tightening up tow chains to avoid sparks on roadways. Western Washington has suffered wildfire smoke five out of the last six summers.
As much of the rest of the country suffers from hot weather and/or heavy rainfall and flooding, western Washington weather continues to enjoy an ‘air-conditioned’ summer thanks to ongoing cooler air moving ashore from the Pacific Ocean.
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