Global warming can’t be blamed for 2017’s wild swings in rainfall, but scientists say slightly wetter winters and drier summers might be more common in the future.
Remember when it seemed like the rain would never stop?
Now, folks in Western Washington are anxiously scanning for clouds and wondering if water will ever fall from the sky again.
After setting a record this year for the wettest rainy season, the Seattle area on Tuesday is expected to break the record for the longest streak with no measurable precipitation — 52 days in a row. There’s no rain in the forecast for the rest of the week.
“It has been a pretty amazing transition,” said Washington state climatologist Nick Bond. “Since the middle of June, the faucet has been turned off and the handle has been snapped off and thrown away.”
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But what’s to blame for the weather whiplash? Surely the juxtaposition of soggiest and driest can’t be just a coincidence?
Yes it can be — and it probably is, says Bond.
“It’s just a really unusual deal of the cards.”
Global warming doesn’t appear to be a factor, nor is there any sort of cosmic balancing out of wet and dry spells, he said.
Long-term climate models hint that slightly wetter winters and slightly drier summers could be more common across the Pacific Northwest by the latter half of the century. But the link between greenhouse gases and overall regional precipitation is weak, Bond said.
What’s more certain is that climate change combined with other factors is likely to spark more wildfires in the future — like those now casting a pall of smoke across the region.
“Maybe we are getting a bit of a taste of the future,” Bond said. “It’s like downtown Beijing out there.”
The Sea-Tac Airport dry streak record that is expected to fall this week was 51 days, set in 1951. In some ways, this year’s record is a bit of a geographical fluke, said National Weather Service meteorologist Gary Schneider.
“Most of Western Washington has had measurable rain,” he said. “It just missed Sea-Tac.”
Summers in the Puget Sound region are normally very dry, Schneider pointed out, so the total amount of moisture that didn’t materialize this year is small, so far.
“We’re probably running only about an inch below normal for the 52 days,” Schneider said.
For the year, the Seattle area still…