Western snow drought remains as storms continue to track to the Pacific Northwest and Northern Rockies.
- Snow drought has expanded and/or intensified across the Sierra Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and southwest Colorado.
- While conditions improved in Washington and across northern Idaho and Montana, warm snow drought has developed in central and northern Oregon.
Since mid-December, little has changed in the spatial patterns of snow drought across the Western U.S. The storm track has remained active in the Pacific Northwest into the Northern Rockies with little moisture and snowfall in the mountains of the Southwest and Four Corners states. Currently, 79% of SNOTEL and Cooperative Snow Sensor stations in the West are reporting snow water equivalent (SWE) below the median (at least 20 years of data) with 52% below the 30th percentile. Snow drought has expanded and/or intensified across the Sierra Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and southwest Colorado. For example, all stations in Arizona and most in New Mexico with >20 years of record are below the 30th percentile. Conditions have improved in northern Idaho and northwest Montana from storms in late December and again in early January that brought heavy mountain snow and increases in SWE to above the snow drought threshold (30th percentile) and in some cases above median. Several lower elevation stations in the Cascades of central and northern Oregon are now reporting snow drought conditions due to warm storms, high snow levels, and lack of SWE accumulation. The higher elevation stations in this region are reporting near-to-above normal SWE.
Snowpack in most areas of Alaska, including the Kenai Peninsula and the mountains to the northeast of Fairbanks, is near or above average. However there are stations reporting SWE at or below median. Coldfoot, located on the south slope of the Brooks Range, is currently at the 12th percentile SWE with records going back to 1995. Higher terrain in the southern Panhandle appears to have limited snowpack (based on webcam images), but liquid precipitation has been excessive.
* Quantifying snow drought values is an ongoing research effort. Here we have used the 30th percentile as a starting point based on partner expertise. Get more information on the current definition of snow drought here.
For more information, please contact:
Western Regional Climate Center
NOAA NIDIS California-Nevada Regional Drought Information Coordinator
NOAA NIDIS Pacific Northwest and Missouri River Basin Regional Drought Information Coordinator