East, west sides agree: State is dry

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Your weatherman is taking a brief — but well-deserved — break before the grape harvest commences and is writing this from a sunny but cool beach on the Washington coast, where communing with crustaceans and biting into bivalves is being accomplished with great gusto.

It is quite a thrill to see the ocean again after living a land-locked existence for the past several months. The weather gods have smiled graciously upon our vacation so far with fair and mild days that have been relatively devoid of the clouds and wind one might reasonably expect to find here this time of year.

The dry stretch being experienced throughout nearly the entirety of our state has drawn particular attention from the Seattle media. The city infamous for its drippy, dreary weather now finds itself within mere days of its longest consecutive dry spell since records have been kept in the Emerald City.

The almost rainless August, and now part of September, has been just the ticket for our Walla Walla Valley grape growers. Most — if not all — would prefer to see this dry trend prolonged into October to avoid any potential rain-caused rot issues.

And just about all of them would have been as wide-eyed as I was Sunday during a stroll through the Quinault Rain Forest, where water and verdant vegetation are in great abundance due to the 140 inches or so of rain that falls there annually.

Thick with ferns, vines and mosses of myriad types, the forest also is home to the largest Sitka spruce in the world. A true giant more than 58 feet in circumference and an astonishing 191 feet tall, the tree in all probability has been alive since 1000 A.D. — or roughly about the same era to which many of our less enlightened politicians today might wish to turn back the clock.

Its proximity to the coast and numerous winter storms, combined with the elevation of the higher surrounding hills and the resulting lift they provide for moisture-laden airflows off the ocean, help explain the Brobdingnagian rainfall totals common to much of the Olympic Peninsula.

Compared to the relatively meager annual rainfall of Eastern Washington, it hardly seems these two wildly disparate areas could be found in the same state.

But Walla Walla’s annual precipitation of about 19 inches along with its bountiful sunshine suits the practice of viticulture just fine. Such a pursuit in the western part of our state is seriously complicated by its overabundance of clouds, wet weather and generally cool temperatures.

And speaking of all wet, I have decided to hire myself out to the Romney campaign, which appears to be in dire need of some remedial meteorology lessons — with a strong emphasis on the hydrologic cycle.

The would-be president, in a conversation Friday with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal during a post-Hurricane Isaac tour of flooding in the state, was overheard asking the governor: “Did the water come from the sky, or the rivers, or the ocean?”

Jindal had the good sense to make his reply inaudible to reporters covering Romney’s visit.

No such worries locally however.

The operative word for the next several days is “fair.” Under the influence of a northwesterly flow aloft, sunny skies and seasonally appropriate high temperatures in the mid- to upper-80s and cool nights will be the rule. The lack of moisture in the air and any appreciable cloudiness will ensure maximum cooling after sunset, with lows dipping down into the low- and mid-50s.

By Sunday or Monday, a few more clouds associated with an area of low pressure currently in the Gulf of Alaska may bring a stray shower to our area along with a brief cool down, but temperatures will recover as we head into the middle part of next week with very little — if any — chance of rain.

A lifelong fan of both the weather and the Baltimore Orioles, Jeff Popick is an instructor at the Enology and Viticulture Center at Walla Walla Community College and manages the school’s teaching vineyard. Send your questions and comments to him at jeffrey.popick@wwcc.edu.

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