The answer is "no." I will never get tired of writing on the same subject: low snowpack. Today’s angle: new research findings from a small group of scientists documenting the existence of six multiyear droughts in the Northwest between 1750 and 1950.

While our skimpy mountain snowpack appears to mirror scientific predictions for climate change, periodic droughts have naturally occurred in the region during the last several centuries. By analyzing tree core samples and historical records of Columbia River streamflow, the researchers were able to extrapolate levels of precipitation. They discovered evidence of six serious droughts, including one that began in 1840 and lasted for 12 years, and another in the 1930s that contributed to the Dust Bowl.

These days, in a thickly populated Northwest, a multiyear drought could have catastrophic consequences for farmers, salmon, cities, and hydropower generators who will scrap for water.

  • What’s even more troubling is that the best predictions for climate change here call for conditions (such as low snowpack) that can lead to drought, exacerbating the region’s natural propensity to periodically dry up.

    There are, however, a few things we can do to soften the impact of drought conditions. To reduce our dependence on hydro dams, for instance, we can diversify our electricity system into renewable locally-produced resources like wind power, we can capitalize on conservation measures and energy-efficient technologies, and we can encourage utilities to invest in "demand response" systems that make targeted cutbacks during peak power-demand periods.

    Other strategies are longer-term. We can encourage compactly built communities that use less water (fewer thirsty Kentucky bluegrass lawns). And we can adopt measures that reduce our contribution to global warming, such as the "clean cars" initiative now before the Washington legislature.