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Environmental Monitoring Program - Previous Weather Summaries

Previous statement: Issued May 2015

We had a repeat performance of the East Pacific high pressure region extending its reach over the western US.  This is becoming a normal occurrence for us since around 2012. Starting in December 2014 and running through March 2015 the Olympia area registered the warmest winter in the history of the area. There were more days over 60  degrees (F) in February and March than previously recorded. There were also 3 days  70+ degrees (F) in March. This comes on the heals of the warmest average summer temperature on record for our area in 2014.

Here were the high temperatures for winter 2014: November 61° : December 65°. Here are the High temperatures for 2015 so far:  January  66°: February 66°: March 74°. The forecast from NOAA is for mid-spring through October is above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation. These predictions, in general, have been fairly accurate throughout the last several seasons so we will see if it plays out. So far April has been slightly off when it comes to predictions with colder weather than much of February.

You may be wondering where this leaves us with precipitation if the weather is so nice this past winter and that would be... just below average, but not by much.  We were above average in October and February and below or average November, December and January.  Through March 2015 we have recorded 35.66" of rain at the courthouse. The average amount of precipitation for us is 36.26" for the same period. So pretty close to average but slightly below.

So even with warm temperatures and near average precipitation for the past year or more why is the groundwater higher than usual and why are some lakes so high?  The short answer is that our precipitation is spaced out over a longer period of time in the fall winter and spring and this seems to make all the difference.  Even though we have the overall same amount of rain, this pattern really has a  profound effect on groundwater.

And where there is groundwater abundance there is lake flooding abundance. Lake St Clair tops the list again with the highest recorded surface elevation in over 20 years. Because of this the residents around the lake are having many problems with flooding and erosion. They really need cooperation with slow speeds on the lake at this time to keep these problems as low as possible until the lake levels subside. Lake St Clair is not alone in its flooding problems, most lake elevations in Thurston County are above average and are causing shoreline erosion and flooding problems.

 The weather patterns over the last several years has been highly unpredictable and unevenly distributed across the globe so we really have no idea how this new reality is going to affect us regionally or locally. Think about how often the weather has not just been in the news, but has been the opening topic of the news, over the past few years.

The same pressure pattern that created warm dry weather for the West Coast of North America has created the opposite effect in the Midwest and East Coast. They have had the coldest and snowiest winter on record for many locations. The period record for the East Coast is much longer than ours so keep that in mind. Boston for example, had the highest snowfall on record for the city. The period of record is almost 200 years for Boston.

That's what's going on for the winter of 2014 - 2015.  This site will be updated after the Spring and Summer or when weather breaks.

Previous statement (February 2014)

 After what appeared to be an ominous early rainfall event in September, 2013, the pipeline went dry. September 2013 brought the end of the Water Year some impressive statistics to look at.. again.  In less than 10 days we racked up almost 10 inches of rain at the Courthouse. That is not quite a record but it is a close 2nd place. This ten day period of well-above-average precipitation raised the groundwater in some areas by over five feet in less than two weeks! The average rise was two feet for most groundwater wells in the north County area. This gave reason to worry because if this trend would have continued the normal rise of seven to nine feet on average over the entire winter would have been exceeded in just the first two months of the new Water Year. This would spell trouble for many of the high groundwater areas, some lakes (particularly Lake St Clair) and some medium size urban streams in our area.

Fortunately this trend did not continue, and in fact, it went the other direction by mid October 2013. In October we received thirty percent our average rainfall. November saw this trend continue with about half the normal rainfall.  December was even lower, with less than 20 percent average precipitation. January improved slightly with about fifty percent normal rainfall. The table below numerically summarizes these trends.

 The table below summarizes our total and average (normal) rainfall for each of the wet season months so far.
(WY 2013-14)

September October November December January
Ave. (in) 2013 (in) Ave. (in) 2013 (in) Ave. (in) 2013 (in) Ave. (in) 2013 (in) Ave. (in) 2013 (in)
2.66 9.70 4.55 1.76 8.40 4.10 6.76 1.26 6.88 5.30
7.04 in. ABOVE Ave -2.79 in. BELOW Ave -4.30 in. BELOW Ave -5.50 in. BELOW Ave -1.58 in. BELOW Ave

The table and discussion above represents a complete reversal since the record September rainfall. Washington State, Oregon and California are now included in a moderate to severe drought stage according to the National Weather Service. Thurston County has received a total of 12.46 inches of rain since October 1, 2013. We should be at approximately 30 inches by Feb 1.

These trends in rapidly fluctuating weather patterns have now become the norm over the past decade. The winter months of 2013-2014 just add to a continuing trend of unpredictability in our global  weather patterns. These patterns have become more and more severe and unstable as the years go on. They make climate and weather patterns almost impossible to predict beyond a couple weeks out. The supercomputer models that process and compute massive amounts of climate data are all but educated guesses now because they cannot depend on the past to predict the future. They attempt to use past trends in combination with instantaneous data to develop predictive trend models for upcoming months. These massive computing machines produce global models used by agriculture, airlines, shipping, retail and global fuel production rates to name a very few.  So the current trends are not just interesting to look at.  They have real world global economic and social impacts that will test virtually every system on earth. Think about what devastation droughts or prolonged cold weather means to a region or a global market or migration patterns and disease proliferation. These wild trends could really begin to cause serious long term impacts for everyone in many ways.  So these are not just interesting numbers they represent ecosystems, economies and billions of lives in a changing pattern that we do not know where it will take us.

Contact Us

Contact Mark Biever, R.G, L.P.E.G- Thurston County Environmental Monitoring Program Supervisor, by e-mail bieverm@co.thurston.wa.us. or

for Lake information contact Janie Civille, Ph.D. by email at Civillj@co.thurston.w.us

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