OSU researchers’ latest climate maps show hotter, drier summers in the PNW

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — Oregon State University researchers are calling attention to some concerning climate trends.

They have released new maps showing which areas are getting wetter and which could face more drought in the future.

Heavy rain, flooding and destructive storms are predicted in the East and in the already dry Southwestern part of the U.S, even drier conditions.

In the Pacific Northwest, we can expect hotter and drier summers.

“We had the big heat dome in late June, which I thought was really unusual for it to happen so early in the year,” said Chris Daly, a geospatial climatologist at Oregon State University. “That’s a little scary to me.”

Every 10 years he and a team of researchers publish maps revealing the new “normals” for our country’s climate.

The latest findings show those normals are getting more extreme.

The maps show the area east of the Rockies is getting wetter, the Southwest is getting drier, and temperatures are getting hotter.

“There’s no doubt that temperatures are slowly creeping up throughout the country,” he said. “The thing that jumped out for me in the northwest is hotter and drier summers, which is probably not surprising to anyone.”

Average rainfall during the summer is decreasing, with the Pacific Northwest getting up to 50% less summer rainfall than it got pre-1990.

And while summer precipitation is on the decrease, temperatures are increasing.

“About a one degree — one to two degrees Fahrenheit increase in July maximum temperature,” said Daly.

The heat dome we had this past June was a good indicator of what we’re in store for in the future, not so much because of how hot it got but how hot it got so early in the year.

Climatologists are concerned about longer summer droughts in the Northwest and a future climate that looks more like California’s than Oregon’s.

“That concerns me as it gets warmer and drier during the summer,” said Daly. “I really worry about water availability and stress on vegetation, increased wildfire risk. All those seem to be in line with what climate models are predicting.”

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