snowpack

The early heat wave across most of the Northwest is forecast to start winding down Wednesday. It might have felt nice while it lasted, but the unusual warmth --record-setting, in some cases-- compounded the rapid melting of the Northwest's precious mountain snowpack.

When winter officially ended last month, snow measurements showed near normal to above normal snowpack across the Northwest. In four short weeks though, the snowpack in Oregon, Washington and Idaho has significantly eroded.

Creative Commons, Paul Owens

  Backcountry wilderness offers beauty. Solitude. Just you and nature.

“Skiing through a foot or two of powder — I have a hard time putting it into words. It’s mesmerizing. You’re weightless. Time stands still. In the mountains, the way snow catches light and the way wind whips through trees and over snow, it creates different textures and lines. It’s a super gorgeous experience,” Michael Hatch said.

April 1 is, on average, generally considered the date of the peak snowpack in the Northwest. And around now, is when many irrigation districts begin filling their canals to get ready for watering season.

There are grounds for optimism as well as caution.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Northwest saw above-normal snowpack this winter. This is welcome news after last year’s droughts and record-low snowpack. But does it mean that the summer fire season will be less severe than 2015?

Courtney Flatt

Mountain snowpack is still above normal throughout most of Washington — even with higher- than-normal temperatures this February. But warming weather could cause problems later this spring.

A couple winters ago, a team of Northwest scientists jumped in a pickup and traveled hundreds of miles around the U.S. and Canadian backroads. They were after samples of dirty snow.

Nick Kenrick, / Creative Commons

Two storm fronts over the weekend caused flooding and broke a few rainfall records in the Northwest.

Estela Caballero / http://nwpublicradio.tumblr.com/

It’s February, the month of sunny skies, warm air, and spring breezes. Wait… that’s not right, is it? But it reached 78 degrees in Long Beach this week. And we can expect highs as much as 15 degrees above average across the state.

This could be bad news, coming on the heels of last winter’s drought, except that Washington saw above-normal snowpack this year. Making this even more unusual? It’s an El Nino year, which typically means warm, dry weather.

Courtney Flatt

  Mountain snowpack is above normal throughout the Pacific Northwest this winter, in spite of warmer than normal temperatures in January. That’s good news after last year’s extreme drought. The findings were released in a federal report released Monday.

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.