Only local mayors are content.
The first half of the snow season is now over, but should we expect the remainder of the winter to be similar? I can't tell you how many plaintive emails I have gotten about this topic. So let's deal with it here.
First, how bad is it? Let's start with the latest numbers from local ski areas and other sites from the NW Avalanche Center (below). Only high-elevation Paradise (5500 ft) is above 50%, and not by much (54%). Others range from abysmal (Hurricane Ridge and White Pass at less than 20%) to terrible (Timberline, Stevens, and Snoqualmie at around 40%).
The problem, as I have documented in this blog, has been persistent ridging along the West Coast, interrupted by WARM, wet patterns associated with atmospheric rivers (the Pineapple Express).
So what about the future?
Let me begin with the KEY PRINCIPLE:
Never assume that the second half of the Northwest snow season will be like the first.
On many years the pattern has reversed, and a poor first half is followed by a bountiful February and March. Seriously. This often happens.
Our models are good enough that we don't have to speculate about the next week and the news is moderately good: there will be some snow during the next few days,
Here is the snowfall prediction for the 72h ending 4 PM on Sunday. Several feet in the north Cascades and good snow into northeast Washington and southeast BC. Unfortunately the Oregon Cascades do poorly except at the very highest elevations. The reason? the air mass will be very warm on Saturday as a warm front moves through; as a result, the Oregon Cascades will be hit by heavy rain (3-5 inches). Bad for snow.
A little more snow continues in the WA Cascades. the next 24 h (see below), but after that the ridge builds back again and shuts the snow down.
Now the bad news. The NOAA Climate Prediction Center 6-10 day, 8-14 day, 1 month, and 3 month forecasts are all the same and BAD. Warmer than normal and drier than normal. Here is the one-month prediction to illustrate.
However, the accuracy of these forecasts is quite uneven-keep that in mind.
What about the National Weather Service's sophisticated seasonal forecast model, the CFS? You don't want to know. VERY warm (surface temperatures) the next few months. And it is going for ridging (high pressure over the west)--not shown here.
And there is a lot of agreement among the models, which suggests we should have confidence in this forecast.
The bottom line: the second half of the Northwest snow season does not look good. The ski areas will get by...barely...with a bit of snow here or there. But the snowpack forecast is not favorable and a betting person would wager that the snow depth on April 1 will be below normal.
Ah yes...it looks like light rain during the Seahawks game...which is probably favorable to Seattle.
10 PM Thursday Night It Was Snowing Hard in Snoqualmie Pass