Below average mountain snowpack likely to stage a comeback

Feb 10, 2023, 11:37 AM
Ryan Crumley, who earned a Ph.D. at OSU in 2019, measures snow depth. OSU engineering professor David Hill is co-leader of the Community Observations + YOU project, one of six citizen science projects funded by NASA to improve understanding of our physical environment. (Photo by Joe Klementovich via Flickr)
(Photo by Joe Klementovich via Flickr)

Last week, I reported that our mountain snowpack had fallen behind thanks to a relatively mild and dry January that had only roughly 50% of the average precipitation.

On Feb. 1, the Northwest Avalanche Center showed that the Cascade and Olympic Mountain snowpack ranged from 58 to 93% of normal. The amount of water in the snowpack for river basins that drain into the Puget Sound area was only ranging from 79 to 90% of the average.

Snow in mountain passes could disrupt travel this week

I also mentioned that there was time to catch up or even exceed our average mountain snowpack and its water equivalent by the time the calendar reaches April 1, the point when the mountain snowpack usually reaches its peak for the season.

If longer-range weather charts are on track, the opportunity to have that mountain snowpack make a comeback should unfold starting next week. The favored flow pattern aloft to help generate considerable snowfall in the mountains is out of the northwest – more directly from the Gulf of Alaska.

Early next week, one Pacific weather system will swing onshore with more precipitation and knock snow levels down well below the passes, perhaps even reaching the foothills.

After a drier mid-week period, more weather systems from the northwest are forecast to track onshore. These systems should help build the mountain snowpack heading toward the end of this month.

This news is great for water supplies, including agriculture irrigation, fish, recreation, and consumption this summer and fall. The news is also good for mountain snow enthusiasts.

One downside for motorists crossing the Cascade passes, this considerable snowfall could make for tough travel with the potential of avalanche control efforts closing highways at times.

The outlook for the period of March thru the spring offers increased odds on cooler than average temperatures and around normal precipitation. This outlook also suggests our mountain snowpack — some call it ‘water in the bank’ — will be in great shape heading into the warm season.

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Below average mountain snowpack likely to stage a comeback