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David Sparks Ph.d SixSnow Pack
by David Sparks Ph.d, click here for bio

Program: Idaho Ag Today
Date: February 16, 2018

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More’s Creek Summit has just 51 inches of snow, that’s two feet less than last year according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“So overall we measured 51 inches of depth, we had a water content of just 13.4 inches of water. Normally up here we should have about 20 inches of water and we’re 60-percent of average for this date,” said NRCS hydrologist Ron Abramovich.

Even though the National Weather Service detected La Nina conditions in the Pacific Ocean last fall, Idaho’s precipitation levels are well below normal January levels according to Abramovich.

“Last year we measured 25 inches of water and 74 inches of depth. So we had about 10 inches more of water in the snowpack last year. We had rain here over the weekend and that's on top of a foot of powder snow so its really crunchy snow. Overall our snowpacks in Western Idaho are just 61 percent of normal,” said Abramovich.

January snow survey shows current snowpacks in Idaho are anywhere from 45-80% of average but the snowpack in the Idaho backcountry now accounts for half the season total and the mountains will collect snow well into May.

“Strong LaNina weather patterns show that we will have a catch-up period from mid-February continuing into the spring. In terms of water supply, I think we have a lot of winter to go. There’s always the LaNina perception that it should have started earlier, but this is a later pattern,” added Abramovich.

NRCS Snow surveys are conducted at the end of each month from December through May to make snow runoff predictions and water supply forecasts used in managing Idaho’s water resources.

“I’m not concerned with these snowpack numbers,” said Abramovich. “We still have reservoirs full of water. If we finish at 60 percent of normal, we still will have more water than we need. We still have half of the winter catch up,” said Abramovich.

February, March, and April are big precipitation months, but January did not come through. January precipitation amounts were only 40% of average across southern Idaho and 60-70% in central and northern Idaho. January temperatures were warm many of Idaho’s SNOTEL sites and precipitation ranged from 70% on average to just above average in Eastern Idaho.

2018 is a very different LaNina year Abramovich says that storms are breaking north and dragging cold temperatures through the midwest.

“In weather terms, there is a high-pressure ridge sitting on top of us. It has really blocked all of the weather and deflected up North into British Columbia. But it will break down and we’ll start seeing storms again.”

Abramovich says there’s a lot of winter weather ahead of us.

“The water supply picture will get better,” added Abramovich. “Above average precipitation will be needed for the next two months to reach average snow water content amounts in the mountains by April,”

The highest snowpacks are 75-80% of average in Eastern Idaho. The lowest snowpacks are 45-55% of average in the Little Wood, Willow, Blackfoot, Portneuf and Bear basins, as well as the Owyhees. Elsewhere, snowpacks are 58-68% of average.

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