We are at the end of winter, and the bulk of our region’s snowfall has occurred. Now is a good time to assess the level of our region’s snowpack and to what degree it will sustain our rivers into the hot summer months. Our current snowpack is an indicator if this will be a good water year for our salmon. A good water year means sufficient streamflow and cool stream temperatures that are ideal for salmon habitat.
Averaged across the 14 Upper Columbia NRCS SNOTEL sites, the snowpack is at 119% of normal or 19% above the average snowpack. This deeper-than-average snowpack was due to strong La Niña conditions throughout the winter months, which typically results in colder temperatures and wetter conditions for the Pacific Northwest. Our region’s deep snowpack was especially due to multiple snow storms in February. The region started the month of February at 7% above the average snowpack and ended the month at 27% above average. Steven’s Pass in particular gained 22 inches of snow water equivalent. Snow water equivalent is the amount of water in the snowpack – so if the snow melted all at once, we would have almost 2 feet deep water over the landscape! The region’s deeper-than-average snowpack bodes well for good sufficient flow and cool temperatures in our streams for salmon.
On a fun side note, our Snow2Flow tool, which is in the final development stages, will predict how different forest management will change snow water equivalent depths and thereby potentially enhance instream flows.