J Brew


A warming climate is making water more scarce in places that rely on runoff from mountain snowpack — places like the Yakima River basin in Central Washington. A Senate panel took up a plan today that would ensure plenty of water for decades to come in this agricultural hub.

Washington Department of Ecology

Water managers had hoped late snows or heavy spring rains would help fill reservoirs and streams after a largely snow-free winter in the Northwest. But that’s not how things turned out. New data shows precipitation levels in the Northwest were 40 percent below normal last month, with snowpack pretty much  disappeared.
Panda Poles / Flickr

The Northwest’s record-low snowfall has delivered a frustrating ski season this winter. And when summertime comes, the thin snowpack could make for low stream levels and tinder-dry forests.

But people who manage the Northwest’s biggest dams say they’re not worried.

"We’re doing just fine at the moment," Mike Hanson said.

Hanson is a spokesman for Bonneville Power Administration. It operates 31 federal dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers, and provides about one-third of the electricity for the Northwest.

Kevin Noone/Wiki Commons

A lack of snow in the Cascades this winter has forced Northwest ski teams to cancel their scheduled races – or move them to higher slopes. It's also generating concerns about climate change. 

So far, snowfall is about 70 percent below average. But it's not a lack of precipitation that's left mountain slopes so bare.  It's warm weather generating rain instead snow.

Tom Banse

There will be end-of-season parties at at least nine Northwest ski resorts this weekend. But some other Cascade ski areas will welcome skiers and snowboarders well past Easter. That's thanks to late-season snow that fell at many area resorts. Timing means everything for the bottom line of these resort companies.

mikelehen / Flickr

On a clear day in Seattle, Nick Bond can size up the mountain snowpack on his bike ride to work. But as Washington state’s climatologist, he crunches the data for a more precise picture.

Chris / Wikimedia Commons

Rising temperatures will reduce the peak snowpack in the Cascades slopes east of Eugene by more than 50 percent. That’s according to a climate study Oregon State University researchers published today.