Our Sobering Snow Year

Friday, January 9, 2015
12:05 pm

If you read my winter weather outlook for this winter on WeatherOn, you’ll note that I predicted warmer-than-normal temperatures and above-normal precipitation for this year in the Pacific Northwest. The precipitation has been near normal or slightly less, but temperatures have been well above normal. When you have well-above-normal temperatures, it doesn’t matter how much precipitation you get. You aren’t gonna get snow at Snoqualmie Pass.

Retrieved from Western Regional Climate Center

Retrieved from Western Regional Climate Center

Snoqualmie Pass is the main gateway through the Cascades over Washington. At 3,000 feet, it is certainly the lowest, and this attribute keeps it snow-free much of the winter. But Snoqualmie Pass’ elevation, while being its greatest attribute, can also be the Summit at Snoqualmie’s greatest enemy. The Summit at Snoqualmie benefits from being the closest major ski area to Seattle and the easiest to get to, especially when you consider the width of I-90 compared to other highways crossing the Cascades and the abnormal amount of snowplows working to keep the roads clear. But at 3,000 feet, it can be snowing buckets at Stevens, Baker, and Crystal, only to rain at Snoqualmie.

The evidence is apparent in the photos.

Alpental base, 3140 feet

Summit Central base, 3,000 feet

Snoqualmie Pass facing west, 3,086 feet

Hyak, 2,600 feet

Things are a little better at Stevens, but not by much.

West Stevems Summit, 4,061 feet

Snow Water Content at SNOTEL Sites: Retrieved from Western Regional Climate Center

Looking at the picture above, you can see that the region with the greatest negative anomaly in snow water content (i.e. the amount of water you would get if the snowpack at a region was melted) is western Washington. Even worse – there is very little new snow this year. Only 64 inches of new snow have fallen at Snoqualmie Pass. On average, we would 128 inches – over twice of that – by now. To make matters worse, much of the snow that has fallen has just been washed away by “Pineapple Express” events, the most recent of which brought major flooding to the Tolt and Snoqualmie Rivers near Carnation. And even when it’s not raining, the freezing levels have still been high. The freezing levels in the Cascades are above 8,000 feet right now.

It ain’t pretty folks. As for the rest of the month? I’m pretty pessimistic. As for the rest of the season?

I wouldn’t bet your bonnet on it.

Charlie

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