Driest Summer in a Century Offers Taste of Seattle’s Future

By John Ryan, KUOW

You can only get to the lush rainforest of the Queets Valley on the rare occasions when it hasn’t rained recently and the Queets River isn’t too deep to wade across without being swept away.

But after western Washington’s driest summer in at least half a century, the river ran unusually low, and Olympic National Park’s Queets Trail was easily approached: The river’s green water only reached this reporter’s shins as he waded across its slippery cobbles over Labor Day weekend under cloudless skies.

The U.S. Geological Survey’s river gauge showed the Queets flowing at about half its average levels in August, the lowest in 63 years of record keeping.

While summers are normally dry in the Northwest, unusual and in many places record-breaking weather left many Washington rivers running at less than half their normal levels in August, according to USGS.

It’s what the Northwest is expected to look like a couple decades down the road if we humans can’t get climate change under control.

“It’s the driest on record,” assistant state climatologist Karin Bumbaco said, referring to precipitation in the Puget Sound region from May through August, a measure that has been tracked since 1895. The region received just 2.5 inches of rain during those months, less than half the normal 7 inches.

This summer, weather stations from Bellingham to Olympia were as dry as they’ve ever been.

“It would be a pretty normal summer by the 2040s, 2050s, according to climate projections,” Bumbaco said.

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