NWS Addresses Concerns that Lesser Snowpack in the West Will Impact this Summer’s Wildfire Season

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Current snowpack. Credit: NWS

The NWS has allayed concerns about the lack of snowpack at lower elevations and how this can impact this summer’s wildfire season in a post on Facebook:

We’ve been hearing people talking about the lack of low elevation snow this year compared to last year and how that could lead to bad fires later this year. Here are some of our thoughts about this topic.

1) Above 4000′ the snowpack is generally wetter than it was last year at this time.

Snowpack at this time last year. Credit: NWS

2) Although we are not seeing much if any snow below 4000′ this year, that actually isn’t unusual. Last year (Feb & March in particular) was highly unusual. It was very cold and very snowy.

3) If the existing snowpack melts in a typical manner (most of it usually melts between mid-May and into June) the fuels in the mountains will cure as usual and we would have a normal length fire season.

4) Comparing this year and the snowpack to 2015 is not a good idea. The snowpack that year was extremely low.

Snowpack in 2015. Credit: NWS

5) What made 2015 particularly bad was this dearth of precipitation was followed by a record warm summer combined with little if any precipitation.

6) This might be the most important fact. We have found that the leading indicator for a big fire season is a very hot and dry summer (just like in 2015) with a bout or two of primarily dry thunderstorms and has little reflection on the current snowpack.

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