July 6, 2022
Fargo, US 82 F

Low Snowpack Signals Third Year of PNW Drought

Snowstorms earlier in the week were a pleasant surprise for the Pacific Northwest, but won’t have much of an impact on the snowpack in the region.

Scott Oviatt of NRCS Oregon says just before the storm rolled in, his state’s snowpack set at 59 percent of average.

Oviatt says while April 1st is typically when snowpacks across the state peak for the season, he noted most Oregon basins hit their high mark back in mid-January, thanks to a warm and dry pattern that dominated February, March and early April.

“We’re already in such a deficit from the last two years of drought, going into the third year of drought, that drought recovery is just not going to occur. And this water, with the warmer temperatures that have been forecasted and have been occurring will move down through the system and into irrigation systems much earlier than planned and wont be available later in the year, when we have typically have snow melt run off.”

Oviatt says that means deficits when it comes to irrigation water this season, and districts struggling to meet demand.

“There will be some exceptions. The northern Cascades, particularly around Mt. Hood, have received some snow, and they are near the median values.  However, it just depends on how fast that melts out here in the spring. The northern Blue Mountains on the Washington/Oregon border also received adequate snowpack, however, anything south of there, there’s just been no snow accumulation and the precipitation we’ve had since early January has been insufficient.”

Likewise, there are snowpack concerns in much of the West and the Northern Plains.

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