The wild, wild weather

  • This map shows how green -- and therefore how healthy -- vegetation was this June compared to the average greenness of vegetation for the same time of year. The brownish orange areas are significantly less green than they have been in the past -- a good indicator of drought and potential fire danger. In the wetter areas, the dark green patches show healthier vegetation

    US Forest Service Wildland Fire Assessment System and US Geological Survey
  • A dust storm, or 'haboob,' rolls into Phoenix from the Arizona desert

    Rob Schumcher/The Arizona Republic
  • Silvery minnow

    USFWS
 

Blame it on climate change or the vagaries of nature, but whatever the cause, weather in the West has been extreme — and wacky. The Southwest has become a tinderbox, while Northwesterners are sopping wet.

WASHINGTON

Average yearly moisture: 37.02 in.*
Moisture June ‘05-May ‘06: 41.53 in.


Nine consecutive days of downpour hit western Washington this January, triggering mudslides, flooding homes and closing highways. Bremerton, a town near Seattle, notched up 16.2 inches of rain during one three-week period, a quantity that normally falls over the course of 2 months. The relentless precipitation caused $7 million in damage and led the governor to declare a state of emergency.

OREGON

Average moisture: 26.78 inches Moisture June ‘05-May ‘06: 31.64 in. Winds of 117 miles per hour — the strongest recorded in the state since 1995 — swept through northeastern Oregon in mid-May, upending 12 circle irrigation systems and destroying 10,000 poplars on a tree farm near Boardman. The storms followed two days of record-breaking highs, which have since cooled down to normal summer temperatures.

CALIFORNIA

Average moisture: 22.33 inches
Moisture June ‘05-May ‘06: 28.44 in.


NEVADA

Average moisture: 8.76 inches
Moisture June ‘05-May ‘06: 10.32 in.


COLORADO

Average moisture: 15.85 inches
Moisture June ‘05-May ‘06: 14.04 in.

Ski resorts in the northern half of the state celebrated the return of good snow, as storm after storm brought some of the highest snow levels of the past decade. Southern Colorado could only look on with envy, as snowfall was scant and far below average. Springtime brought bad news for water managers all over the state, however. Unusually high temperatures, no significant snowfall in May, and snowmelt-inducing dust events quickly shriveled snowpack to below-average levels statewide (HCN, 5/29/06: Dust and Snow). By June, the remaining snow level was about five times lower than normal in the southern part of the state, only slightly higher than in 2002, one of the worst years on record for wildfires.

ARIZONA

Average moisture: 12.71 inches
Moisture June ‘05- May ‘06: 7.54 inches


Look up the word "drought" in the dictionary, and there might be a picture of Phoenix, Ariz., on June 6, when a "haboob" — a huge dust storm — engulfed portions of that sprawling city. Phoenicians have been parched this year: No precipitation fell for a record 143 days between October 2005 and March 2006, prompting some residents to flock to beauty salons in search of miracle potions to ease dry skin. This drought, coupled with four years of below-average precipitation across much of the state, has increased the risk of wildfire; more than 4,000 acres burned in February near Payson. The U.S. Department of Agriculture declared 14 out of 15 counties drought disaster areas.

MONTANA

Average moisture: 29.14 inches
Moisture June ‘05-May ‘06: 17.91 in.
An early heat wave blasted Montana’s Glacier National Park, setting a record high of 89 degrees on May 16. Rapid snowmelt produced water at the rate of one inch a day, which helped trigger a huge avalanche that churned 4,000 vertical feet down the slopes of Heaven’s Peak.

IDAHO

Average moisture: 18.8 inches
Moisture June ‘05-May ‘06: 22.05 in.


Climate reports from Idaho this year referred repeatedly to the state’s weather as a "yo-yo." Unseasonably high temperatures in May melted a big winter snowpack, which ranged from 110 to 180 percent of normal in central and southern Idaho and broke a four-year streak of below-average snowfall. Then it got cold again, and another foot of snow fell in some places. In early June, 90-degree temperatures returned, which melted more snow, prompting flood warnings in some areas and creating the best whitewater conditions in years.

WYOMING

Average moisture: 13.07 inches
Moisture June ‘05-May ‘06: 12.35 in.


NEW MEXICO

Average moisture: 13.45 inches
Moisture June ‘05-May ‘06: 9.28 in.


After a dry and dusty winter, southern New Mexico chile farmers welcomed the lack of weeds and insects, and planted crops early. But by mid-May, hot, windy weather dried up almost five miles of the Middle Rio Grande, bumming out farmers and killing 38 endangered Rio Grande silvery minnows. About half the state is under drought advisory, with some areas already experiencing "severe drought emergency." And on June 5, Albuquerque hit 98 and Roswell 105 degrees — record highs for both cities. But maybe there’s hope: The New Mexico Council of Churches asked all congregations to pray on Sunday, June 11, for an end to the drought. As we went to press, the prayers had not yet been answered.

High Country News Classifieds
  • DEVELOPMENT AND OPERATIONS COORDINATOR
    Development & Operations Coordinator Terms: 1.0 FTE (full-time), Salary DOE ($45,000 - $55,000) Benefits: Paid Time Off (12-24 days/year depending on tenure), Paid Holidays (10/year),...
  • GUIDE TO WESTERN NATIONAL MONUMENTS
    NEW BOOK showcases 70 national monuments across the western United States. Use "Guide10" for 10% off at cmcpress.org
  • CARBON RANCH PLANNER
    The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education,...
  • EDUCATION AND OUTREACH DIRECTOR
    Education and Outreach Program Director The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic,...
  • WESTERN DIVISION DIRECTOR OF FIELD PROGRAMS
    DEADLINE TO APPLY: October 29, 2021 LOCATION FLEXIBLE (WESTERN HUB CITY PREFERRED) Overview The Land Trust Alliance is the voice of the land trust community....
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER & PROJECT COORDINATOR (REMOTE)
    High Country News (HCN) is seeking a contract Graphic Designer & Project Coordinator to design promotional, marketing and fund-raising assets and campaigns, and project-manage them...
  • FILM AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INDIGENOUS MEDIA, CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY AND DECOLONIZATION (INITIAL REVIEW 12.1.21)
    Film and Digital Media: Assistant Professor of Indigenous Media, Cultural Sovereignty and Decolonization (Initial Review 12.1.21) Position overview Position title: Assistant Professor - tenure-track Salary...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    To learn more about this position and to apply please go to the following URL.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • CENTRAL PARK CULTURAL RESOURCE SPECIALIST
    Agency: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Salary Range: $5,203 - $7,996 Position Title: Central Park Cultural Resource Specialist Do you have a background in Archaeology...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    Come live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world! As our Staff Attorney you will play a key role in...
  • ARIZONA GRAZING CLEARINGHOUSE
    Dedicated to preventing the ecological degradation caused by livestock grazing on Arizona's public lands, and exposing the government subsidies that support it.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo (friendsoftheinyo.org) is seeking a new Operations Manager. The Operations Manager position is a full-time permanent position that reports directly...
  • WATER RIGHTS BUREAU CHIEF
    Water Rights Bureau Chief, State of Montana, DNRC, Water Resources Division, Helena, MT Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • DEVELOPMENT & OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • DESERT LANDS ORGANIZER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo seeks a Desert Lands Organizer to assist with existing campaigns that will defend lands in the California desert, with...
  • IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE
    Want to help preserve Idaho's land, water, and air for future generations? Idaho Conservation League currently has 3 open positions. We are looking for a...