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Seattle the next Saint-Tropez? Not quite, but Mediterranean climate trends continue

SEATTLE — One look outside Thursday would have most people thinking otherwise.

Gray, windy and 64 degrees. Snow in the mountains over the weekend.  

The idea that Seattle is anything like Saint-Tropez in the summer seems laughable. But given current climate trends, a more Mediterranean-climate is not too far off, said NOAA Climatologist Nick Bond, who is studying the atmosphere and ocean as part of a joint effort between the University of Washington and NOAA.

“A Mediterranean climate by definition is one that is wet in the winter time and dry in the summer time,” Bond said. “We already are that to an extent. What our climate models are indicating is that it will be even more that way.”

The west coasts of Washington and Oregon already experience warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Climate trends have those winters getting increasingly short, Bond said.

Just look at May. After above-average snowfall in most of the Washington Cascades, a record-warm and dry May melted off much of the snowpack. Some areas on the Olympic Peninsula could even see a drought later in the winter.

A month of May that is two to five degrees above historic average could happen more often, Bond said, as the Pacific Northwest’s climate continues to shift.

And that could mean problems for our water supply, which is primarily fed through snowmelt.

“Right now in dry years we already have some problems,” Bond said. “And there are concerns that those problems are going to get worse.”

The Pacific Northwest doesn’t have an extensive reservoir system like much of California to guard against dry years. While some agriculture could benefit from warmer and drier, other classic Northwest crops could suffer.

Of course, Bond cautions against panic when it comes to drought, especially this year. Only a few places should see drought, with the above-average snowpack taking us through to the winter. Washington’s agriculture shouldn’t be impacted like it was in 2015, Bond said. And longer term climate forecasts are not certain.

Still, a warm summer is on tap.

“It will be warmer than normal this summer,” Bond said.