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Just How Much Snow and Rain Has the West Seen This Year?

Another week, another article on the dire drought in the West. And although it certainly wasn't a stellar snow year for Utah, California, Oregon, or Washington, there were moments with plenty of precipitation. While rain in the winter is certainly not what skiers or snowboarders want, it does help to explain why Oregon and Washington could have such bad ski seasons without being in a drought. Warm temperatures wreak havoc on ski areas (especially low-altitude resorts) because more precipitation falls as rain than as snow. To be categorized as a drought, however, there needs to be a deficiency of measurable precipitation, not just of measurable snow. With this in mind, we decided to compare maps of the current snowpack to maps detailing precipitation.

Throughout the winter, we've been tracking maps of the current snowpack. As one might expect with the number of ski areas that closed early in California, the May 13 snowpack map for Tahoe is not looking good. Even in Oregon, Washington, and Utah, things look dire if you only look at the snowpack.

The picture is a bit better if you take all precipitation into account. In this map of the percentage of average precipitation since October 1, you can see that while California and Nevada are definitely in trouble, parts of Oregon and Washington are actually near average.

In both maps, May snowstorms and rain in the northern mountains of Colorado have boosted the totals.

· National Weather and Climate Center [Official Site]
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