PORTLAND, OR -- Oregon's State Climatologist says says everyone is watching for extreme weather this summer, especially after experts were caught off guard by last year's deadly heatwave. Larry O'Neill doesn't think we'll see a repeat this year, "There are a couple parts to why the heatwave was so severe [in 2021]. One of them was the fact that we had the driest spring on record in Oregon - and other parts of the Pacific Northwest, it was one of the driest. So that lack of soil moisture actually contributed to the severity of the heatwave that we had. So, the fact that we’ve had a wetter than average spring this year might help a little bit." He says as the moisture in the ground evaporates, the water vapor cools the air - by as much as a couple of degrees.
While Central and Southern Oregon brace for a third year of extreme and exceptional drought, other parts of the state are no longer under any drought designation. O’Neill says the wet spring has helped a lot, "This water year has seen some substantial improvements through much of the region, mostly to the north. The regions that we have not seen very much improvement are in southern Oregon and eastern Oregon, and then parts of Idaho." He notes much of Central and Southern Oregon are still in exceptional drought - the worst designation. And, he expects that to extend into the fall.
In the Willamette Valley, O'Neill says the ag community may actually suffer from too much precipitation, "There is some impact actually from the fact that we’ve received so much rain, when we’ve had some - like the grapes in bloom. There’s some potential the yields will be down in some of the fruits and berry crops, things like that, from the rain."