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The Pacific Northwest has a snow drought – what that means!

U.S. Drought Monitory released Thursday, April 6.
Credit: KING 5

Pacific Northwest is in a snow drought: what that means and a look at the numbers

While California has received plenty of rain and snow this wet season with several atmospheric rivers, parts of the PNW have slipped into drought conditions.

Excerpt from KING-5 TV News, Seattle:

The Pacific Northwest typically reaches its peak snow water equivalent (SWE) in early April. The SWE is an important indicator of potential spring and summer water supply for the PNW and the West in general.

SWE can be used as a snowpack measurement—being the theoretical amount of available water depth resulting from the entirety of the snowpack melt. A look at the latest SWE, from the SNOTEL report for the state of Washington, shows the water equivalency numbers are not too far in either direction from the average. Overall, the current SWE range is from 85% of normal to 131% of normal.

Despite the current state of SWE in the SNOTEL report, the latest National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) report does suggest serious drought concerns remain for parts of the PNW due in part to a lack of snow and including the region in “snow drought.”

A snow drought is what it sounds like—it is simply a lack of snow during the winter. Snow droughts are caused by either a lack of precipitation or by warmer temperatures causing precipitation to fall as rain instead of snow. In an effort to determine whether a snow drought, or low SWE values, is caused by a lack of precipitation or a lack of precipitation falling as snow (so precipitation falling as rain instead of snow), the SWE can be used in conjunction with the total winter precipitation.

Not only is the region in a snow drought, but abnormally dry conditions have developed across parts of western Washington in the latest drought monitor. The abnormally dry conditions extend from southwestern Washington across central and south Puget Sound and across the Washington Cascade range. Abnormally dry conditions indicate an area is going into a drought and that dryness can hinder crops and increase fire danger.


+ The Olympian: Experts have ‘serious drought concerns’ for WA this summer. Here’s why they’re worried

Posted by Steve on April 10, 2023 at 12:01 am | Permalink

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