Some drought designations lifted
After heavy snowstorms in December produced above-normal mountain snowpack throughout much of Washington, the month of January brought only 63% of normal mountain precipitation statewide for the month, and warmer than normal temperatures.
“After the very encouraging snowstorms in December, January flatlined,” said Scott Pattee, a water supply specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
Snowpack readings statewide were 92% of normal at the beginning of February, down from 113% of normal on Jan. 1, Pattee reported.
Although January precipitation was below normal for most of the state, the northern and central portions of the state east of the Cascade Mountains were the exceptions, and received above-normal precipitation, the state climatologist reported in a summary of January’s weather.
While some parts of Washington received only half the normal precipitation in January, north central Washington was doused with precipitation ranging between 110% and 200% of normal for the month, the state climatologist said. “Omak precipitation took the top prize, totaling 208% of normal.”
In the Upper Columbia River basin (which includes the Methow Valley), snowpack readings were 121% of normal on Feb. 1, NRCS reported. The Methow River basin was 104% of normal, which was the same snowpack reading as Feb. 1 last year.
Mountain snowpack serves as a reservoir of water that feeds rivers and streams as it melts in the spring. Farmers, fish and wildlife, and recreationists depend on the supply of water from the mountains during the hot, dry months of summer and fall. Snowpack is measured in terms of “snow water equivalent,” which is the amount of water contained within the snowpack.
At Hart’s Pass, elevation 6,490 feet, the snowpack reading was 84% of normal as of Feb. 13.
Despite the lower than normal precipitation in many parts of the state in January, many river basins are at near-normal snowpack levels and areas listed as “moderate drought” by the U.S. Drought Monitor at the end of 2022 have been removed from drought designation, the state climatologist said.
“The improvements were concentrated in north central Washington, where January precipitation was above normal, with precipitation surpluses extending back several months,” the climatologist reported.
The most recent forecast for the rest of February shows a probability for below normal temperatures and slightly above-normal precipitation. The three-month forecast through April continues that trend of below-normal temperatures and above-normal precipitation.