snowpack

GARY KING

In the Northwest’s Cascades, there’s snow at high elevations, but it’s scored by vertical lines showing where rain has run downhill.

This warm El Niño winter in the region is worrying water managers and farmers. Many Washington and Oregon reservoirs aren’t filling up like they should, and snowpack levels are below average in many areas.  

familymwr / Flickr - tinyurl.com/mxm8z36

April is the traditional start of the whitewater rafting season. The hefty snowpack in the mountains this year is good news for commercial rafting companies and recreational enthusiasts across the West.

NRCS

The latest Washington state water supply forecast is out and managers said Monday there’s no reason to believe the state might face drought this year.

Melissa Webb / USDA-NRCS

Scientists have new cautionary predictions based on the low Northwest snowpack levels of the last two winters.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

Early this winter, skiers in the Northwest were excited. But then after about Christmas things turned dour. The once-epic snowpack is now long gone. In Washington state, it melted down in record time to less than half of average for early June.

And there hasn’t been much rain this spring either. The Cascades, Olympics and Blues are all hurting.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

The early heat wave across most of the Northwest is forecast to start winding down Wednesday. It might have felt nice while it lasted, but the unusual warmth --record-setting, in some cases-- compounded the rapid melting of the Northwest's precious mountain snowpack.

When winter officially ended last month, snow measurements showed near normal to above normal snowpack across the Northwest. In four short weeks though, the snowpack in Oregon, Washington and Idaho has significantly eroded.

Melissa Webb / USDA-NRCS

April 1 is, on average, generally considered the date of the peak snowpack in the Northwest. And around now, is when many irrigation districts begin filling their canals to get ready for watering season.

There are grounds for optimism as well as caution.

Stephen Warren

A couple winters ago, a team of Northwest scientists jumped in a pickup and traveled hundreds of miles around the U.S. and Canadian backroads. They were after samples of dirty snow.

Olivia Weitz / Northwest News Network

The looming threat of drought next summer has water managers willing to try anything to build up winter snowpack. Idaho and other Western states are hoping to squeeze more snow out of the clouds with a method called cloud seeding.

Jordan Harper

Mt. Hood’s Timberline Resort is the only place offering a full summer ski season in North America. But not this year. The resort closed to the public on August 2 -- five weeks earlier than normal. And that’s after a dismal winter ski season.

USDA

Washington Governor Jay Inslee declared a statewide drought emergency due to low snowpack Friday.

Washington Department of Ecology

Across the Northwest, farmers are already making tough calls because of this year’s drought. The dismal snowpack is to blame.

Anna Trombley / Washington Department of Ecology

Washington Governor Jay Inslee declared drought today in three regions of the Evergreen state: the Olympic Peninsula, the east side of the Cascade Mountains including Yakima and Wenatchee, and the Walla Walla region.