Western Snowpack

Western Snowpack

David Sparks Ph.D.
David Sparks Ph.D.
It is now just over two months into the western mountain snowpack season, the time that that region's water supplies are hopefully replenished for the coming spring and summer. As USDA meteorologist Brad Rippy emphasizes, it is very early in the season. “A lot can happen between now and April 1st when we reach our peak snowpack dates.”

Yet as we reach the almost one third point of the Western snowpack season, “we do have some early clues as to how things are going to go this year.”

For now, abundant snowpack looks promising in the southern two thirds of the western region. “Because of the early barrage of storms that we have seen just in recent weeks across Southern California, there has been an appreciable buildup of early season snowpack” and as one moves to the northern realms of the west, in particular the Pacific Northwest.

“We have seen much scarcer precipitation, especially in recent weeks across the northwest. And as you move into Washington, Oregon and Idaho, snowpack there in almost every river basin is significantly below average.” And expanding upon the areas of concern. There are several basins in Washington state, including the upper Yakima or snowpack is less than 25 percent of average and several basins in Oregon and Idaho. And that would include the Willamette Valley in Oregon and the Spokane River Basin in Idaho, where snowpack is less than 50 percent of average. Some of those deficits also extend into northwestern Montana as well.

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