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Disastrous: Western U.S. Snowpack

Posted by feww on April 12, 2015

 Western U.S. Snowpack Shrinks to Record Low

Well-below-average precipitation and abnormally warm temperatures over most of the Intermountain West including nearly all mountain areas have left Western US snowpack at record lows. “Most mountain areas received 25–75% of average precipitation, with the Wasatch Range seeing yet another very dry month with 25–50% of average,” according to Intermountain West Climate Dashboard.

30-day Precip as % Avg  (HPRCC)

Current Snowpack as % Median

Highlights [from Intermountain West Climate Dashboard]

  • March was disastrous for the region’s snowpack and the expected spring–summer runoff. Snow conditions and forecast runoff are now similar to 1977, 2002, and 2012 in many parts of the region, particularly in Utah.
  • Since early March, the snowpack has significantly declined relative to normal conditions across the region. Most basins are now reporting less than 70% of median snow water equivalent (SWE), and the majority of individual SNOTEL sites are below the 5th percentile for SWE.
  • The April 1 spring-summer runoff forecasts are lower or much lower than the March 1 forecasts across the region. Most forecast points are now expected to see much-below-average (50–69%), far-below-average (25–49%) or extremely low (<25%) runoff, with Utah seeing generally lower forecasts than Colorado and Wyoming.

Mountain Snowpack as of April 1, 2015. (WCC/NRCS/USDA)

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