NASA says 2009 was the second-warmest year on record for the planet,
and no matter what people believe is the cause of global warming, its
effects are being felt here in Washington. With the exception of the
Olympic peninsula, snowpack is below normal around the state, and
experts say extreme weather events will become more common as climates
In a new report about weather anomalies for the National Wildlife Federation
climate scientist Dr. Amanda Staudt says weird weather often means the
wrong kinds of precipitation, at the wrong times of year.
"Last year in January, there was a really good example of this. The
Seattle area got ten inches of rain in two days. On top of that, that
rain melted a lot of snow that was already on the ground, so they had
major flooding; they had to close the Interstate."
This month, she says, the shorter, milder winter is also a big,
expensive concern for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British
The current outlook through April shows above-normal temperatures and
below-normal rainfall amounts for Washington. The federal Climate
Prediction Center says it could be the result of El Nino conditions in
the Pacific Ocean, although Dr. Staudt says climate change could also
be at work.
"If you go back and look at the data over the last century, we haven't
seen any trend in our El Ninos, we haven't seen a big change in them.
Right now, the science is out on that question and it's an area where
people are actively looking."
Over the longer term, if Northwest temperatures climb another three or
four degrees, the Washington Department of Ecology predicts the kinds
of droughts the state typically experiences every ten years would occur
every other year.
The report, "Oddball Winter Weather: Global Warming's Wake-Up Call for the Northern United States," is available online at www.nwf.org