Activist state

‘April showers bring May showers’: Earth Day with WA State climatologist Nick Bond

Here in the Pacific Northwest, every day feels like Earth Day.

We love our evergreen forests, bountiful waters and majestic mountain ranges.

There’s even a Twitter account dedicated just to if you can see mount rainier.

President Joe Biden is in Seattle to celebrate Earth Day with an executive order to protect ancient forests from wildfires.

Some climate activists are less than enthusiastic about his visit.

But Washington State climatologist Nick Bond is hopeful. He will listen to the President to recognize the work being done in Washington State and in the PNW. And he hopes to learn more about the Biden administration’s plan to rally opponents of grossly reversing climate change.

Bond spoke with Angela King of KUOW.

This interview with Nick Bond has been edited for clarity.

Angela King: Things have calmed down a bit this week. But earlier in the month, the Seattle area warmed to 70s lows. The National Weather Service says that doesn’t normally happen here until June. Then a few weeks ago it snowed. Places like Auburn have seen huge snowflakes. And we know you’re a climatologist, who doesn’t necessarily break down day-to-day weather patterns, but are those just flukes? Or are climate tea leaves really telling us something right now?

Nick Bond: Yes, as we have already discussed, we often have relatively cool and unstable weather at the end of winter during La Niña. This time, we only had to wait until April to enter this pattern. For the rest of the month, we will occasionally have showers. And you know, the expression here is “April showers bring May showers”. So don’t put the umbrella away.

Let’s talk about snow in the mountains. The snowpack has been boosted by some of the recent storms. So how do we wait for summer?

For most of our mountains we are in pretty good shape, a little above normal. The central Puget Sound region is found to have the highest amounts, compared to normal. The southeastern part of the Cascades that sort of feeds the lower Yakima basin is still only 76% of normal, but the bottom line is that most of our major streams should have at least decent this summer.

That being said, some places in the state and lower elevations in eastern Washington are still suffering from long-term rainfall deficits. And so dryland agriculture, wheat, barley, and other crops like that, and some of the pastures and rangelands are going to be under pressure this summer.

Expand icon

Well, speaking of summer: summer is now 60 days away and begins June 21. I know some people are looking forward to warmer weather. But last summer’s deadly heat wave really worried other people that we might see a repeat. What do the latest forecasting models you’ve looked at say about this?

I’m glad you mentioned last year’s heat wave, because it’s important to realize that it was an abnormal event. The chances of something like this, something this bad happening again this summer are very low.

Now, as the climate continues to warm, the worst heat waves will be much more intense. But even in the middle of this century, current projections suggest that temperatures as hot as those of last year will only occur once every five or ten years.

Even as an “abnormal” event, however, these things seem to be happening more frequently.

It’s true. And we have seen what can happen. But it was such an extreme that our best science suggests that something like this won’t happen very often at all.

OK. Well, as we mentioned, the President is in town for Earth Day today. Anything in particular you hope to hear from President Biden or any issues you hope his administration will address?

You know, it’s a tall order. But somehow, this administration needs to convince those who oppose action, that the more we drag our feet on climate change, the harder and more expensive it will be.