Wash. snowpack rebounding after recent weather, still far below average

Mar 7, 2024, 6:22 AM


(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

It has stopped snowing in the mountains for the moment after having more than a week of quite welcome snowfall. This winter season’s mountain snowpack has been well below average to this point, so how much of the snow deficit was made up during the recent snows?

The good news is the mountain snowpack made up some ground. The bad news is, there is still a long way to go with the usual peak of the mountain snowpack occurring right around April 1 – just a few weeks away.

In mid-February, the Olympics were not faring well at all with just 30% of average snow on the ground. According to statistics from the Northwest Avalanche Center, the recent snows improved that total on the ground to about 66% of average. The National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) indicates that the amount of water in that snowpack is now about 50% of average, an improvement of 20%.

More on Wash. weather: March’s weather kicks off like a lion, 6 pm sunsets around the corner

In the Cascades, the snowpack in mid-February ranged from about 40% at Mt. Baker to 83% on Mt. Rainier. Today, the recent snows improved the average to about 80% on Baker with much of the rest of the Cascades ranging from 75-90% of average. The NRCS water equivalent statistics show an improvement in the range of 60-75% of average. Overall, this was good progress in just a few weeks.

After this short-lived dry spell ends by the end of this week, more snow is expected in the mountains. Starting this weekend, a series of Pacific weather systems are forecast to move through Western Washington with periods of rain in the lowlands and snow above about 2,500 feet in the mountains. The new snow amounts are likely to be measured in several feet once again by early next week.

Yet long before the end of this month, the latest extended weather outlooks point toward a return to warmer and drier conditions – not good news for continuing to build up that mountain snowpack.

In addition, the latest National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center seasonal outlook continues to reflect solid odds of warmer-than-average temperatures through this summer, while the odds of precipitation are near or tipped toward below average. This seasonal outlook implies the mountain snowpack may begin to melt off earlier than usual, leading to a collection of undesirable issues.

More from Ted Buehner: When does daylight saving time start in 2024? It’s fast approaching

The primary issue is water supply – for consumers, for agriculture, for adequate stream flows for hydropower generation, fish, recreation and more. Unless spring actually turns out to be cooler and wetter than what the seasonal outlook shows, another big impact will be an extended wildfire season across the state including Western Washington, starting earlier than normal and stretching into fall.

Wildfire managers, power utilities, fish management, water managers and many others are closely monitoring the weather situation heading into this spring and summer. The next few weeks may provide more clues on how this situation will play out for much of the rest of the year.

Ted Buehner is the KIRO Newsradio meteorologist. You can read more of Ted’s stories here and follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter.

MyNorthwest Weather

weather meteor showers pink moon...

Ted Buehner

Buehner: This week’s weather includes meteor showers, a pink moon, near-70 degree days

The Lyrid meteor shower that peaked over the past weekend but will continue Monday night before fading as April ends.

18 hours ago

Photo: A rainbow briefly lights up over downtown Seattle and the Space Needle between rain and wind...

Ted Buehner

Buehner: What led to Washington drought as wildfires, rainbows on the horizon

DOE declared a Washington drought emergency. History shows below-average precipitation years often create more wildfires and wildfire smoke.

1 day ago

Puget Sound Convergence Zone...

Ted Buehner

Buehner: Puget Sound Convergence Zone brings sunshine, showers, rainbows

Spring is here and with it comes the mix of sunny days and days with showers. Spring is also the peak time for the Puget Sound Convergence Zone.

5 days ago

Two combines harvest wheat on Aug. 5, 2021, near Pullman. The National Weather Service classified t...

Heather Bosch

Washington remains in the grips of drought, will stay there

The State of Washington Department of Ecology this week declared a new drought declaration for most of the entire state.

6 days ago

Photo: Smoke from wildfires fills the air along Alaskan Way on September 12, 2020 in Seattle, Washi...

Julia Dallas

Brace yourself for weeks of poor air quality in 2024, Seattle residents

Unfortunately, bad air quality will plague the Seattle area for three weeks this year. And the trend is projected to get worse.

6 days ago

april showers...

Ted Buehner

This week’s weather: April showers to bring May flowers

Perhaps these additional April showers will bring May flowers as the days continue to get longer. Monday will mark the year’s first 8 p.m. sunset.

8 days ago

Wash. snowpack rebounding after recent weather, still far below average