Tag Archives: snow accumulation

Heavy snowpack may bring flooding but reduce fire intensity

This is a little like discussing the World Series after the first few games, but forecasters are hoping for reduced fire danger to go with the above average snowpack and flooding danger this year . . .

A wet Montana doesn’t burn very well.

That’s the mixed message from the Montana Governor’s Drought and Water Supply Committee forecast presented Wednesday in Missoula. A much-above-average snowpack in the mountains may produce flooding in many river drainages across western Montana. But the moisture should also keep the 2014 fire season below average in intensity.

“Usually the long-range forecast for July and August in the Intermountain West has a big drought bull’s-eye over the area,” said Northern Rockies Predictive Services meteorologist Bryan Henry. “This is one of the first years in a long time I don’t have a major concern for moisture.”

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Low snow totals in the valley, about average higher up

Snow amounts down-valley this winter were considerably lower than average, but higher elevations did OK overall . . .

Spring officially got under way Tuesday, ending one of the Flathead Valley’s mildest winters in recent memory.

From Oct. 1 through March 20, just 30.2 inches of snowfall had been measured at Glacier Park International Airport. That’s almost 26 inches less than the average of 55.8 inches for the same period. Precipitation, however, totaled 6.19 inches at the airport, not far off the average of 6.97 inches.

Mountain snowfall above the Flathead River Basin was quite different than in the valley, starting out well behind the average but eventually catching up to be 103 percent of normal.

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Snowpack close to average in most of Western Montana; Flathead area a little less

Looks like snow snow accumulation is running a bit behind locally, but not in Western Montana generally . . .

The snowmen look a little shriveled, but western Montana’s 2012 snowpack has stuck close to average despite January’s wintry weather.

Readings from the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Bozeman show the Columbia Basin rivers of northwest Montana at 93 percent of their average precipitation. The Kootenai, Upper and Lower Clark Fork and Bitterroot are all right around 100 percent, with only the Flathead basin lagging at 86 percent of average.

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Flathead Basin snowpack just 69 percent of average

Confirming what everyone has noticed, snow accumulation is considerably less than normal so far this winter . . .

Mountain snowpack in the Flathead River Basin is 69 percent of average, according to Jan. 1 figures from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The Kootenai River Basin to the west has snowpack that is 88 percent of average.Statewide, mountain snowpack is below average.

Jan. 1 represents about 45 percent of the expected seasonal snowfall, so more than half of the snowfall season remains.

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Glacier Park’s climate a paradox – both wetter and drier

Here’s an interesting article from the Hungry Horse News on the shifting climate in Glacier National Park . . .

Precipitation in Glacier National Park over the past few decades is up about 14 percent, but the Park is actually drier in many respects, with streams hitting low flows earlier than usual and wildfires occurring more frequently.

How can that be? Trees, U.S. Geological Survey scientist Dan Fagre explained at a recent talk in Apgar. While the Park may be wetter, it’s also warmer. And with warmth, there’s been less snow on average than in the past, he said.

With less snow, the treeline in Glacier Park has slowly but surely moved higher in elevation. And with more trees growing in the Park, there is more evapotranspiration, Fagre said. The trees draw water out of the ground and release it into the atmosphere, creating drier conditions, particularly in late July and August.

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Snow melting, dams filling, floods feared in West

Here’s a pretty good overview of the potential flood situation in our corner of the the U.S. from today’s Flathead Beacon . . .

The giant concrete dams of the Pacific Northwest are overflowing with water. Wyoming has deployed National Guard troops to pile up sandbags. A federal official compares the impending situation to a bucking bull ready to storm out of his chute.

States across the West are bracing for major flooding in the coming weeks once a record mountain snowpack starts melting and sending water gushing into rivers, streams and low-lying communities. The catalyst will be warmer temperatures forecast for the next week that could set off a rapid thaw.

Continue reading . . .

Related article more specific to Montana: Schweitzer wants presidential disaster declaration

Snow depth and accumulation information available online

Judging by the number of “hits” on the subject here at gravel.org, a lots of folks are interested in the unusually high snowpack at altitude and the potential for flooding later this spring.

For those of you who wish to keep track of such things, WeatherStreet.com has a web page that tracks snow depth and snow accumulation values for Montana. It also has the most recent SNOTEL snow depth reports.

Link: Montana Snow Depth and Snow Accumulation (WeatherStreet.com)