Rainy, chilly Seattle is the envy of a drought-ravaged world

Everyone around here knows about chilliness of June-uary, and that summer really begins on July 5.

But this year has been particularly wet and cold. We’ve seemingly skipped spring altogether. It’s easy to kvetch about wearing long underwear to watch Little League games or giving a down jacket to work in the garden. But given the alternative, a little gratitude may be in order.

For most the world — and indeed, for a good part of the state — excess heat and continuing drought are causing significant disruption and anxiety.

Take Franklin County in southeast Washington, for example.

The National Weather Service says 100% of its residents, 62,999 acres of wheat and 34,623 cattle are currently impacted by severe drought. Consequences include stunted crops, more wildfires and increasing livestock feeding difficulties. According to the US Census, Franklin County has 98,000 people.

In King County, 0% of residents are impacted by even the lowest level of drought. In fact, it’s been a good ski season. (By comparison, there are 14 acres of wheat in King County, and 11,000 cattle).

Here in the Seattle area, heat is not the problem — at least, not yet. We’ve already soaked up more rain than typically falls in the entire month of May. On April 13, Olympia experienced its coldest day on record: 28 degrees.

Others look to us with haste envy.

Much of California and the Southwest are experiencing an unrelenting dry spell. Reservoirs are dipping to historic lows, threatening the ability to generate hydropower. Water authorities are warning people with yards to knock off the sprinklers. Yellow lawns have been part of the Seattle summer experience for decades, so this shouldn’t really present too much of a hardship.

June 21 is the official first day of summer, but the southern Plains and Midwest are already experiencing record heat. A good part of the Western US is in danger of burning.

India and Pakistan experienced a “spring-less” year. Temperatures typically rise in May and June, but this year heat records were broken in March and April.

Recognizing the rest of the planet’s atmospheric perils won’t make that ruined barbecue or soggy outdoor wedding any easier around here.

This is our second consecutive La Niña year, which tends to bring cooler and wetter weather.

And after this cool spell, who knows what the weather will be? Last year, the thermometer hit 108 degrees on June 28 — an all-time high. The University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group notes that the region continues to warm because of human-caused actions.

There will be time to worry about the heat. For now, let’s be thankful for the chilly temperatures and showers. They make Seattle what it is, and why it is so special.

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