Dry, Hot and Bothered

Summer weather a cause for growing concern

By Hilary Berg, OWP Editor

While I write this letter, it is really heating up outside. My clock says 11 a.m., and the thermometer reads 81°F.  The high will reach 94°F. That’s toasty, right?

Editor's Note

Hilary Berg has been the editor of OWP since 2006. She graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s in journalism. She and her husband own a seven-acre vineyard and winery called Roots.

For all my friends and family back in Kansas, it seems a bit dramatic to start my letter mentioning the “heat” when so many of their days end in triple digits. But this Kansas girl has now lived in Oregon for 15 years, and my coping skills have shifted. I can now “mostly” handle the months of rain and gray, while the increasingly hotter summers are actually starting to get to me.

The heat’s affecting the grapes, too. Over the past 15 harvests in the Willamette Valley, crush has typically started in October. But, like last year, it will likely commence in September. Is this a genuine trend or just a blip? Many are saying the former — even the Pope would agree.

Then there is the topic of water. Just look at our neighbor to the south. California is entering its fourth year of record-breaking drought, creating a half-million acres of parched farmland and a frightening number of receding reservoirs.

While Oregon’s situation is not this dire, it is bad, no doubt. Gov. Kate Brown has now declared drought emergencies in 20 of the state’s 36 counties.

In fact, it’s been so hot — June temps broke records — and so dry that Fourth of July almost wasn’t. It was touch and go for fireworks vendors in Portland as Roman candles and the like were in danger of a citywide ban — fortunately, for all the patriotic pyros, it was not enacted.

It’s dry. It’s hot. But will it stick? What should we expect for the next couple months heading into harvest?

According to climatologist Greg Jones, conditions will remain warmer than usual and drier, too. He wrote in a recent report: “Even with the onset of the El Niño, the U.S. Drought Monitor and others are still forecasting for the drought across the western U.S. to either persist, intensify or develop from the current conditions seen in California, Oregon, and Washington.”

Unless Mother Nature changes her mind, harvest will start bright and early this year.

And if all of us do not start taking better care of her, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Especially when she’s hot and bothered.



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