Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cascades Snowfall

(Photograph by Tyson Fisher, submitted to My Shot, from National Geographic)

It's been about five years since I last visited Crater Lake, and it looks like I may get the opportunity to do so again sometime this summer. It's kind of startling to see massive snowbanks persisting into July, but they do. The amounts of snow that fall in the Cascades are difficult to comprehend. Despite the high elevations, summer temperatures can get quite warm, but the sheer amount of snow means that it can take most of the summer to melt off.

We had a good amount of snow coming into the new year, then January and February were dominated by "warm" systems that either didn't add to the snowpack, or, in some cases, actively melted back what was already in place. As a result, at the beginning of March, our snowpack was about 70% of normal for that time. But March and April have been cold, with numerous winter-style storms, and the snowpack is now well above normal (I'm recalling about 120%) throughout the Oregon Cascades. That bodes well for the fire season, for irrigation, for salmon, for hydropower generation... water is important, even in a region that is often perceived to have a surfeit of it.

The news that brought this to mind was this article from The Salem Statesman Journal:
KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. (AP) — The total snowfall at Crater Lake National Park has pushed past 600 inches, with more expected before the end of the season.

The Herald and News reports that 9 inches of fresh snow measured Tuesday increased the total snowfall to 615 inches, well above the 492 inches normally measured by April 26.

Click over to read the rest- I think you'll find the numbers pretty hard to believe. Keep in mind that 615 inches is much greater than the total amount on the ground at a given time, just the total that has fallen over the course of the winter- the total on the ground at park HQ is 12 feet, not 51 feet. But still, picture enough snow to bury a five story building, and tell me if you don't find that kind of breath-taking.

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