Snowpack Still Below Average In Most Of The West
On Sunday, the calendars will change, and a brand new month will begin. But as we kick-off April, snow chances in the western U.S. will start to wane. Of course, snow is still possible in April, but less likely, and less widespread. So with most of the snowfall in the 2017-2018 season on the ground, it’s a good time to examine snow-pack levels to see how generous Mother Nature has been. In short, snow levels in most states are down this season compared to last year, and below normal. Snowpack in the West is critical for several reasons. First, many cities, such as Denver, depend on snowpack for usable water. Snow in the Rockies today, becomes drinking water in Denver over the next 12 to 15 months. Second, more snow means less wildfire danger during the dry summer months. And third, recreation pursuits suffer from a lack of snow. Ski resorts need it in the winter, and rafting companies need the spring runoff to shoot the rapids.
Let’s check the snow levels state by state.
FOUR CORNERS REGION:
Colorado has been behind the curve with snowfall the entire season. In early January, Colorado snow-pack had some of the worse levels in 30 years. Since then, Colorado has made up ground, especially in the northern part of the state. Snowpack levels there are between 83 and 94 percent of normal. However, the southern portion of the state is still lagging far behind, with snowpack averaging just 60 percent of normal.
Snow levels in Utah are also well below normal. With the exception of the Bear River and Lower Sevier River Basins, much of the snowpack in the state is only between 50 and 65 percent of normal. More snow is needed in the Wasatch Range.
After a painfully slow start to the snow season, several big snow events have brought levels much closer to normal. In early January, snowpack in the Sierra Nevada range was only about 20 percent of normal. Those levels have risen dramatically over the last two months. Levels near Lake Tahoe are now close to 80 percent. Truly a nice late season comeback!
Northern Oregon has done fairly well this year with snow. Most of the region is between 80 and 90 percent of normal. However, the central and southern portions of Oregon have not fared so well. The Klamath Basin has received just slightly more than half of normal snowfall levels. And the Malheur Basin has received less than half of normal snowfall.
But a little farther to the north, in Washington state, the snowpack is actually above normal. It’s one of the few states in the western U.S. with above average snow levels. The Upper Columbia Basin has 136 percent of normal snowpack. That’s pretty impressive. Way to go Washington!
A good portion of Idaho is also above average when it comes to snowpack. The northern and central parts of the state have received above average snowfall. However, more snow is needed in the southern portion of Idaho. The Owyhee Basin is just 51 percent of normal.
MONTANA & WYOMING:
Many of the winter storms that brought heavy snows to Washington and Idaho, traveled into Montana and Wyoming, dumping plenty of snow there. The snowpack in Montana is outstanding! Every basin is well above average this season. The skiing has been fantastic, and hopefully the wildfire season will be much tamer thanks to all of the moisture. The big winner is the Upper Yellowstone Basin with 155 percent of normal snowpack. Amazing snow there!
Much of Wyoming as also had an above average snow season. The Yellowstone Basin is 156 percent of normal, and the Snake Basin has also seen plenty of snow, 120 percent of normal. The skiing in Jackon Hole has been superb! Basins in the south central part of the state are slightly below average. At 70 percent of normal, the Lower North Platte Basin could use some more snow. Sweetwater and Little Snake Basins are also a bit behind schedule at 85 and 81 percent of normal respectively.
So congratulations to all the areas that have above average snowpack. And for those basins that are still behind, the snow season isn’t over yet. There could still be some fairly significant snow to come. But May is right around the corner, and time is certainly running out.
For WeatherNation: Meteorologist Matt Monroe