The drought conditions in Washington that prompted Gov. Jay Inslee last week to declare an emergency are likely to grow worse because of a strengthening El Nino tropical weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean, a weather researcher for Washington State University said Thursday. El Nino, an ocean-warming phenomenon, may bring some relief in drought-stricken California, but it’s more likely to bring more heat and dryness to the Northwest, researcher Gerrit Hoogenboom said. El Nino typically brings rainfall to central and southern California, but leads to warmer weather and less precipitation in the Pacific Northwest.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently announced that El Nino has been building strength since March, and that there is a greater than 80 percent chance its climatic conditions will persist through the rest of the year. “El Nino probably has not yet hit its peak,” Hoogenboom said. “It’s likely that it will be stronger in autumn and winter.” That’s bad news for a state facing an already historically low mountain snowpack and depleted water levels in rivers and reservoirs, mainly east of the Cascade Range. FULL REPORT