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David Sparks Ph.d Examining the Snow Pack
by David Sparks Ph.d, click here for bio

Program: Idaho Ag Today
Date: January 11, 2018

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Water specialist Ron Abramovich kicked off the 2018 snow season with a visit to Moore’s Creek Summit in Boise County. His measurements told a story of a little less snowfall than this time last year. “Right now the whole Boise basin is 68% of average. Last year, if you remember, all the storms started coming into the state around February. Our precipitation in February last year was 2 to 3 times normal and 4 to 5 times normal in the Big Wood basin.”

But there is more to the story than just the number of inches that fell. Meteorologist Colene Haskell says even though we are in back-to-back years of La Niña weather pattern, early winter weather behavior is different. “Even though these are back-to-back La Niña years, last year we had a very wet fall. This year has been significantly drier. Not only that but the first precipitation of the season came in this year as snow instead of rain so we didn’t really recharge the soil first. It is a dryer snowpack not just in terms of the depth but the moisture content as well. However, a typical strong La Niña pattern suggests over the years that we will have a catch-up period from later January into February and continuing into the spring.” Regardless of what the future brings, authorities says thanks to last year’s heavy snow load water supply for the coming year will be good. “What’s amazing is how much last year set up the conditions for this year. We had a tremendous snowpack and runoff season last year, so that your really filled the void in terms of soil moisture, streamflow and springs are all flowing above average right now and our reservoir storage is pretty high across the whole state. So even with a below normal snowpack, we will still have an adequate irrigation supply. That is all because of last year’s runoff.

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