Monday, April 2, 2012

Snowpack SWE

April 1st is traditionally the day used to examine peak snowpack in the western United States, although the reality is that the snowpack peaks on average a bit earlier in lower elevations and a bit later at upper elevations and, for a given elevation, earlier in the south compared to the north.  Nevertheless, we'll go with it and use todays (April 2) analysis since I was too lazy to do it yesterday.

The bottom line is that the snowpack situation is quite dire across the southwest, which for this post includes Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Arizona, and New Mexico.  If you squint, you can find one basin at 99% that extends into extreme northwest Utah, but this is based on data from a Snotel station in the Albion Mountains of Idaho that, thanks largely to a monster snow event in mid January, has clung to near average snowpack SWE.

You might recall that the far southwest (Arizona and New Mexico) actually got off to a good start this winter, but Mother Nature ended up putting the brakes on in a hurry.  Check out how Signal Peak in southwest New Mexico was probably sitting at close to 250% of average after a major storm in mid December.  The snowpack SWE at that time was at or above the average peak, which occurs in mid Feb.  They held steady for the winter, but the snowpack was gone by mid March.

In the Wasatch Mountains, which typically sees a greater variety and number of storms, we've been chugging along below average all winter and never had a period with a high frequency of storms or a major storm cycle to put us over the top.

Most skiers will recall the 50" storm cycle in mid March at Alta, but that couldn't make up for the massive deficit in snowpack SWE.

Where's the snow?  The Pac Northwest.  In particular, the Washington Cascades are sitting pretty.  I snagged the photo below from Mount Baker's web site, which presently reports a 268–319 inch base and 777 inches so far this year, including 260 inches in March.

Source: Mt. Baker Ski Area

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