It was these passages, from an Associated Press report, which caused me to question last week whether heavy rains in the Plains were connected with El Nino (Researcher says drought could get worse in Wash. state by Nicholas K. Geranios; May 21) [emphasis mine]
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - The drought conditions in Washington that prompted Gov. Jay Inslee last week to declare a [statewide] emergency are likely to grow worse because of a strengthening El Nino tropical weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean, a weather researcher for Washington State University said Thursday.
El Nino, an ocean-warming phenomenon, may bring some relief in drought-stricken California, but it's more likely to bring more heat and dryness to the Northwest, researcher Gerrit Hoogenboom said.
El Nino typically brings rainfall to central and southern California, but leads to warmer weather and less precipitation in the Pacific Northwest.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently announced that El Nino has been building strength since March, and that there is a greater than 80 percent chance its climatic conditions will persist through the rest of the year.
"El Nino probably has not yet hit its peak," Hoogenboom said. "It's likely that it will be stronger in autumn and winter."
That's bad news for a state facing an already historically low mountain snowpack and depleted water levels in rivers and reservoirs, mainly east of the Cascade Range.I still don't have clarity on the answer because at least one weather authority has stated that the Great Plains deluges were connected with El Nino. And the fact that rainfall is "typically" connected with parts of California doesn't mean the pattern couldn't drift to the Great Plains, but again, I just don't know.
Anyhow, from the AP report, Washington is definitely cut out of whatever bounty El Nino can bring. Yet the state's precipitation situation is strange -- the strangest on record. From Think Progress, May 18, in a report filed by Natasha Geiling:
Washington State Is In A Drought ‘Unlike Any We’ve Ever Experienced’
Citing historically low snowpack, falling river levels, and rising temperatures, Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) declared a statewide drought emergency for Washington on Friday.
“We’re really starting to feel the pain from this snowpack drought. Impacts are already severe in several areas of the state,” Inslee said. “Difficult decisions are being made about what crops get priority water and how best to save fish.”
Sectors that rely heavily on melting snowpack, like agriculture and wildlife, are expected to be hit hardest by the drought, with the Washington Department of Agriculture anticipating $1.2 billion in crop losses this year.
Statewide, snowpack levels are currently 16 percent of normal, ten percent lower than the last time a statewide drought emergency was declared in 2005. Of 98 snow sites measured at the beginning of the month by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), 66 were snow free — 11 of them for the first time in history.
Along with record low snowpack, the NRCS found that 17 of 34 long-term measuring sites recorded their earliest peak on record, occurring on average 48 days earlier than normal.
“This drought is unlike any we’ve ever experienced,” Maia Bellon, director of the Washington Department of Ecology, said.
“Rain amounts have been normal but snow has been scarce. And we’re watching what little snow we have quickly disappear.”
[...]There's plenty more in the report and the AP one, for those who want to keep track of Washington's extraordinary situation.