SPOKANE, Wash. — The latest Drought Monitor update for the U.S. worsened the drought in Washington in terms of both coverage and severity on Thursday. Now, that severity has reached a level that Washington has never seen before.
There are four levels of drought severity, with exceptional being the most extreme and that is the type of drought that was reported near the Ritzville and Asotin areas. This covers about 7% of the state, but since detailed record keeping began in 2000, Washington had never seen an exceptional drought before.
Since the start of February, most of Eastern Washington has seen the record driest stretch of weather in these past five-and-a-half months. Spokane, for example, has seen less than two inches of total precipitation. But the extreme heat is now just as much a contributing factor. The record-breaking heat in the past two weeks has zapped the soil of any remaining moisture.
The drought has resulted in hotter conditions, and the hotter conditions has resulted in an even worse drought. This is a positive feedback loop that has now resulted in the most extreme drought conditions the area has ever seen.
Comparing to 2015, while there was no exceptional drought, the next highest drought level, extreme drought, covered 85% of Washington at one point in late-August. So while the coverage of drought isn't as high as 2015, the severity is worst.
And it's still mid-July this year and the drought will only get worse over the next one to two month unless a drastic amount of rain changes that.