It’s shaping up to be a hot, dry and smoky summer in Oregon.
Eighty-percent of Oregon is now in moderate drought, the most since the historically dry 2015 season, according to a new report from the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Even the Oregon Coast, one of the wettest places in the United States, has been moved into drought.
“We haven't seen any substantial rain in the valley since early June, and river flows in some Oregon Coast drainages are at or below 2015 levels,” said Kathie Dello, Associate Director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at Oregon States University.
That Oregon has dropped into such widespread drought isn’t surprising, according to meteorologists.
May and June were two of the hottest and driest months on record in the Willamette Valley, according to meteorologists at the National Weather Service.
July hasn’t been much different. The average temperature in Salem has been 86 degrees this month, well above the average of 82.2, said NWS meteorologists.
As a result, 95 percent of Oregon is classified as “abnormally dry,” 80 percent is in moderate drought and 25 percent is in severe drought, the Drought Monitor said.
“The month of May really started us down this path, with very hot and dry weather, that mostly continued into June,” NWS meteorologist Matthew Cullen said. “Looking forward, we’re expecting extremely hot and dry conditions that look likely to continue into late July.”
One result of the abnormally hot and dry temperatures has been wildfire.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a statewide wildfire emergency on Wednesday due to the number of fires burning across the state.
Currently, there are nine large wildfires or complexes burning across the state, and more than 150 small ones, according to numbers from multiple agencies.
The last time Oregon was this dry on the drought monitor scale was November of 2015, the tail-end of one of the state’s worst droughts on record.
And it’s probably not going to change anytime soon.
“For the next few weeks, we’re leaning toward hotter and drier than normal weather,” NWS meteorologist David Bishop said.
Zach Urness has been an outdoors writer, photographer and videographer in Oregon for 10 years. He is the author of the book “Best Hikes with Kids: Oregon” and “Hiking Southern Oregon.” He can be reached at zurness@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6801. Find him on Twitter at @ZachsORoutdoors.