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How the current heatwave can impact the state's drought conditions

Posted at 5:12 PM, Jun 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-30 20:35:19-04

MAGIC VALLEY — Idaho is currently in a drought with most of the state experiencing moderate to severe droughts, according to the U.S. drought monitor.

The Sun Valley area is currently seeing extreme to exceptional drought conditions. The Idaho State climatologist says the current heatwave the Pacific Northwest is experiencing can make those drought conditions even worse.

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“You can also incorporate temperature into it because a low precipitation amount can be exacerbated by having higher temperatures. I indicated that at the beginning that those go together, but not all the time," said Russell Qualls, Idaho State Climatologist.

Related: Idaho officials brace for tough wildfire season amid drought

Not only do these heatwaves exacerbate droughts, but droughts also cause higher temperatures, creating an inconvenient cycle.

“Because things are very dry, we don’t have a lot of moisture in the soil. So the energy that comes in from the sun is having to be removed more for the surface more as sensible heat flux rather than latent heat flux because there’s not much water available to be evaporated," Qualls said.

A drought represents when conditions in a given location are drier for an extended period in a certain location, according to Qualls.

Related: Idaho's ongoing drought halts some irrigation months early

Qualls is also part of various drought committees, he says these drought conditions are something they knew was coming.

“So we’ve been meeting for some time, and since things began to dry out in late March and certainly by April, it was looking like things were going to be dry," Qualls said.

As for the rest of the summer, the conditions could remain hot and dry depending on the pressure zone that causes these heat waves and whether or not that goes away.

“It could be that the rest of the summer remains hot and dry, which could then, as you were suggesting, exacerbate wildfire issues. On the other hand, it’s possible that once this high-pressure zone dissipates and goes away or moves to be off the center of the northwest, we could have some storm fronts coming in and bring some moisture," Qualls said.