Monday, June 27, 2011

Rainier Dreams

 Mount Rainier (Photo courtesy Washington State DOT)
For mountaineers and meteorologists, no mountain in the contiguous United States compares with Mount Rainier.  It has it all: massive scale, great vertical relief, extensive glaciation, ecological diversity, and incredible weather variability.

Paradise Ranger Station on the south side of the mountain is one of the snowiest instrumented locations on Earth.  The National Park Service reports an average annual snowfall of 680".  As of 17 June, 907" of snow has fallen on Paradise since 1 July 2010, which sounds like a lot, until you realize that their all-time record is 1122", set during the 1971-72 winter.

Nevertheless, the SNOTEL snow-water equivalent for this year is quite impressive, peaking at just over 100" in mid May.  Remarkably, more than 80" remains today.  And this is at only 5120 feet!  Only slightly higher than Salt Lake.

Source: Northwest River Forecast Center
The deep snowpack is also evident in the National Park Service web cam, which looks east from the visitor center and captures a portion of the iconic Paradise Lodge.

Photo: National Park Service
Chinook Pass, located near the eastern boundary of the park, is also quite famous for prolific snowfalls and they had one bear of a time getting it open this spring.  Washington State DOT has posted some great photos here, but I've snagged a couple below for quick viewing.

Cayuse Pass 20 April 2011 (Photo: Washington State DOT)
Chinook Pass 1 June 2011 (Photo: Washington State DOT)
Mount Rainier does have a rainshadow, and less snow falls in the northwest corner of the park in the area around the Sunrise visitor center.  In the summer, this area is often sunny while the western lower slopes of Mount Rainier are draped in marine stratocumulus.  Nevertheless, getting the road and facilities at Sunrise open has proven quite difficult this year.  As shown in the photos below, rainshadow is a relative term.

Photos: National Park Service
And how about a quick stop at the restrooms?
Photos: National Park Service
Apparently the road to Sunrise will finally open this Friday.  Simply incredible.

1 comment:

  1. I was just in Alaska last week and spent a couple extra days in Seattle. It was pretty awesome but it was torture picking lines and not having my board or anything.