Much of the Western USA did not have a good year. Or should we say “had one of the worst years on record.” Lake Tahoe had its second worst winter on record with only 174″ of snow. As you can see on this SNOWTEL map, the the Sierra Nevada mountains in California saw snowfall totals below 40% of normal. Taos, New Mexico saw around 42% of normal snowfall. Oregon was also all below normal.
But, the pictures gets better as you go north and east. Colorado mountains mostly saw over 100% of average snowfall this year. Wyoming was up around 150% of average. Washington was right around average. Montana had a stellar season with mostly 150% of average snowfall. Idaho did great as well.
So, maybe it wasn’t such a bad season. Maybe most of the Western USA actually had a good year. Maybe it’s just that the places with low snowfall were really loud and whiny. Ah, hem… Yeah, that would be us…
What Is SNOWTEL?
SNOTEL is an automated system of snowpack and related climate sensors operated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) of the United States Department of Agriculture in the Western United States.
There are over 600 SNOTEL (or snow telemetry) sites in 13 states, including Alaska. The sites are generally located in remote high-mountain watersheds where access is often difficult or restricted. Access for maintenance by the NRCS includes various modes from hiking and skiing to helicopters.
All SNOTEL sites measure snow water content, accumulated precipitation, and air temperature. Some sites also measure snow depth, soil moisture and temperature, wind speed, solar radiation, humidity, and atmospheric pressure. These data are used to forecast yearly water supplies, predict floods, and for general climateresearch.