By the Numbers: The Lack of Snowpack in the West

Anyone living out west knows that this year has been usually warm, easily seen by glancing at any of our normally snowcapped peaks. While we know that this year’s El Nino has been tough, what is most shocking is that it is one of the worst snowfall years in history. The snowpack for the 6 western states of California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are at a combined 41% of normal, with the highest snowpack coming in just under 80%.

To put this into perspective, California is currently sitting at 6% of normal. The next closest year was 1976-77 and 2013-14, when they received 25% of normal. The problem of lack of snow isn’t just in California. It has already crept up the coast, reaching the  State of Washington, which has just 22% of normal snowpack, with a drought being declared in and around the Olympic Mountains, home to America’s Rainforest. Oregon is sitting on 13% of average around the state, while Idaho is doing better with a whopping 58% of normal. The two states in the west that seem to not have terrible snowpacks are Montana and Wyoming, both in the 70% of normal range. Montana is #1 in snowpack average with 79.5% of normal…a still terrible number for a region that sees serious wildfires.

The numbers for the winter of 2014-14 are shocking, and truly terrible. Without a snowpack, shortages of foods, water, small salmon runs, and an increased fire danger are just a few of the problems we will see in the summer. I have already documented climate change in Olympic National Park, so I will instead leave you with the facts and figures of the region.

THE WEST

Snowpack levels throughout the west. Green is good, red is bad.
Snowpack levels throughout the west. Green is good, red is bad.

WASHINGTON

Washington State is at just 22% of normal snowpack through March of 2015
Washington State is at just 22% of normal snowpack through March of 2015

OREGON

Oregon is at an average of 13% of normal snowpack through March of 2015
Oregon is at an average of 13% of normal snowpack through March of 2015

CALIFORNIA

California is at 6% through March, 2015 of normal snowpack, an all-time record low
California is at 6% through March, 2015 of normal snowpack, an all-time record low

IDAHO

Idaho is at 58% of normal snowpack through March of 2015
Idaho is at 58% of normal snowpack through March of 2015

MONTANA

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 11.54.44 AM
Montana is sitting at 79.5% of normal snowpack through March of 2015.

 

WYOMING

Wyoming is at 70% of normal snowpack through March of 2015
Wyoming is at 70% of normal snowpack through March of 2015

 

Finally, we leave you with this image from Olympic National Park’s Hurricane Ridge. 

The end of March in 2014 vs. the end of March in 2015 at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. 2014 was also a below average year...
The end of March in 2014 vs. the end of March in 2015 at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. 2014 was also a below average year…

 

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By Doug and Mathias on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington State

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