Dry weather has affected much of Klamath County. Pictured here is Antelope Valley Ranch along Highway 140 by Drews Reservoir.
This year’s total of 7.55 inches of rain compares to 2001, a year infamous for lack of water, when just 7.07 inches of precipitation fell, said Chuck Glaser of the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Medford.
As for the wettest year during that period — 2006 saw 17.21 inches. (Measurements are taken at Klamath Falls Airport.)
“It’s dry, no doubt about it,” said Glaser, who added the caveat that forecasting is an imperfect science. Next year looks to be a bit drier than normal, he said, and precipitation levels could go either way.
- Water levels
Matt Baun of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) noted a dry winter last year without much water to go around in the spring. “It was a slightly below average year with the water table,” he said.
Rain finally came in late March and early April, Baun added. “More often than not there are concerns about dry years. If we get a wet fall and a wet winter we’ll be OK.”
The USFWS works closely with the Bureau of Reclamation, which has legal obligations to maintain enough water in Upper Klamath Lake for endangered sucker and in the Klamath River for protected coho salmon.
Kevin Moore of the Bureau of Reclamation said Upper Klamath Lake is considered full when it is at 4,143.3 feet above sea level. When Moore spoke with the Herald and News on Tuesday, the lake was at 4,137.81 feet, according to United States Geologic Survey data. But even one foot of elevation is a lot of water with such a large lake, Moore said.
- Fire season
High temperatures and low moisture are precipitous twins when residents consider the fire season. This year’s was particularly destructive, and it’s not over yet.
The Barry Point fire in Lake County received the most attention in the region. But there were many others, bringing Klamath air quality down and obscuring its scenic views, not to mention acreage burned and property damaged.
The Klamath Falls Interagency Fire Center coordinates firefighting resources for US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, Klamath Basin Refuges Complex, Crater Lake National Park and the Oregon Department of Forestry.
And it has kept its fire danger pointed to extreme, said Klamath Falls Interagency Fire Center dispatch coordinator Jake Barnett. As the season gets later common seasonal firefighters, who are often students and teachers, are back in school. “A larger fire could be challenging,” Barnett said. “We may have to pull from other areas.”
Thus far, 77,112 acres have burned on lands monitored by the Klamath Falls Interagency Fire Center.
Weather-wise, Burnett noted above normal temperatures with below normal moisture. “You could tell that fuels were drier and drying out earlier. We didn’t see the snowpack we’re used to seeing.”
- Snowpack issues
Last snow year in the Klamath Basin was very unusual, said Jon Lea of the National Resources Conservation Service’s Snow Survey. “Slow to start and then it came on strong after February, keeping irrigation demands low.”
Nevertheless, Lea estimated last year’s snowpack in the Klamath Basin to be 90 percent of normal.
“But now we’ve had three very dry months and very dry soils,” he said. “For this year I’ve seen predictions for wet or dry. October temps may be low near the end of the month and in November — you like to see that come with moisture to start prepping for snow.”
Fall rains are important for wetting the soil and getting the watersheds ready to receive snow. This winter is still uncertain according to Lea. “Every group has different prediction forecasts,” he said.
Posted: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 12:00 am
The Klamath Basin accumulated a total of 7.55 inches of precipitation this water year, making it a very dry year in the Basin, according to Chuck Glaser, data acquisition program manager for the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Medford.
That total puts the Basin well below the 30-year average of 14.96 inches. In fact, it’s close to the lowest measured during that period. The water year runs from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31. Additionally, September brought temperatures that were 3.2 degrees hotter than normal and the last rain fell Aug. 18 with only .07 inches.
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Wednesday, October 3, 2012 12:00 am.