November 19, 2020

The Best Early Snow in Years

Here in the Northwest, we are enjoying one of the most bountiful early snow periods in years.  Crystal Mountain ski area opened yesterday and Mount Baker opens tomorrow.   

Want to be impressed?  Below is the current percentage of normal snowpack, and specifically the snow water equivalent (SWE, the total amount of water in the snow) of the snow that has piled up so far.  

Amazing.  The entire Northwest is not only above normal, but WAY about normal, like 441% of normal in the Olympics.  The kind of map that skiers and water managers like to see.

But let me make this even more concrete.  The graphics below show the snow depth this year versus the last two years.  Notice a difference?   Huge.

This Year
                                                Last Year                                    Two Years Ago

And there is more positive news.  Here is the latest UW forecast for accumulated snow over the next week.  Major additions, with as much as three feet of snow at higher elevations and plenty over northeast Washington.  You may not be able to go to Whistler this year, but no worries:   plenty of local snow for downhill and cross country skiing.

Another positive is that there are no major warm-ups forecast for the next week, so don't worry about any rain on the snow.    We expect more snow than normal during a La Nina year, but generally that occurs after January 1.    This year we are starting early.   

At this point, the the outlook for a good snowpack going into spring and summer is an encouraging one.

I will have a new podcast tomorrow...both the forecast and a discussion of the great windstorms that have hit the Northwest.


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  1. This is great news! Just left my cabin in Plain last night where we have a solid 8" on the ground. Looks more like late Dec. over there. Driving home over Stevens Pass, mod. snow, snow on the road and over 3' enough to open I think. If we can avoid a Pineapple Express, this could be an exceptional snow year. Bring on La Nina!! 😁

  2. Cliff. In your podcast can you address why as in technically these low pressure centers tend to "bomb out" as they get near our coast lines versus well out at sea? What causes the rapid deepening when it gets right near our coasts? Oragraphics? (Doubtful) rapid strengthening of a wind aloft jet core or? My point is basically they bomb out right near our Coast whether it's up around Vancouver BC or off the Columbia River or off the Olympic Peninsula depending on where they land they always bomb out just offshore rapidly intensifying versus well out to sea thank you if you can address this in your podcast would be helpful

  3. Ski fanatics must be happy...but, as a lowland gorilla here, I would like to hear if our chances for lowland snow is higher this year? I mean, the last couple of years, we experienced a couple of snow dumps, but they usually melt away in a couple of days...hopefully the curse of the Frazier River Valley will not put us in a deep freeze condition after a snow storm!...although, as a kid in Seattle, I loved it when that happened!

  4. Ok but this is pretty much the same as what we have been hearing (not from you) re: drought for the last decade, only in reverse. Yes this anomaly is a good start but it is a tiny sample size this time of year (ie the average is less than a foot for the end of November at 3k feet elevation).

    The early season drought fear-mongering has been pervasive based on Cascade snowpack trending later and last year was no different; just do a search on “december 2019 washington snowpack drought 2015” to see the “official” comparisons to 2015 and all of the terrifying drought predictions based on early season stats that – just like 2016… and 2017… and 2018 – were ultimately (by the end of March) proven 100% wrong.

    On a broader scale… the overall theme of “collapsing Cascade snowpack” has been going on for much longer than that (back to the 90’s) and kudos to you Cliff and other scientists at the UW for questioning it. That prediction is now so embarrassingly wrong and yet there has been zero accountability for it and zero credit to scientists like you who called it out (while being harassed for doing so).

    But back to celebrating 400% of snowpack this time of year… it’s a great start, but an acknowledgment of what that actually means statistically (not much) is probably needed here – particularly when using the drought monitor stats as the measurement.

    Thank you again for a fantastic blog Cliff and for the courage you have shown over the years to think and speak outside of the politically correct bubble.

  5. It seems worth adding your usual disclaimer about both early and late season snowpack levels often seeming exaggerated because of normal variation in when the snowpack starts to meaningfully accumulate.

    That said, it doesn't look like the amount of snow on the ground at this time is going to simply disappear.

  6. What does the forecast look like for lowland snow this winter? Strong La Niña, great snow conditions in the mountains, would love to see some snow during the holidays. I live in NW Washington, Lake Goodwin area.

  7. Rainfall in "Sunny Sequim" this year must be near a record. Any information about what the record is? This year is around double or more.


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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