Environmental Research Letters
Washington State experienced widespread drought in 2015 and the largest burned area in the observational record, attributable in part to exceptionally low winter snow accumulation and high summer temperatures. We examine 2015 drought severity in the Cascade and Olympic mountains relative to the historical climatology (1950-present) and future climate projections (mid-21st century) for a mid-range global greenhouse gas emissions scenario. Although winter precipitation was near normal, the regional winter temperature anomaly was +2.1 degrees C (+2.0 sigma) in 2015, consistent with projections of a +2.3 degrees C (+2.2 sigma temperature change and near normal precipitation in the future, relative to the climatology. April 1 snow water equivalent in 2015, -325 mm (-1.5..), and the future, -252 mm (-1.1 sigma), were substantially lower than the climatology. Wildfire potential, as indicated by dead fuel moisture content, was higher in 2015 than mid-21st century mean projections. In contrast to most historical droughts, which have been driven by precipitation deficits, our results suggest that 2015 is a useful analog of typical conditions in the Pacific Northwest by the mid-21st century.
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Marlier, Miriam E.; Xiao, Mu; Engel, Ruth; Livneh, Ben; Abatzoglou, John T.; and Lettenmaier, Dennis P., "The 2015 drought in Washington State: a harbinger of things to come?" (2017). Civil Engineering Faculty Contributions. 8.