If you love snow, especially skiing or riding it, and have made looking at reports your morning ritual to go along with that nasty coffee habit—you may know about the large quantities that appear at Mt. Baker Ski Area most mornings. Especially during the 1998-1999 season, their snowfall was nothing short of legendary and recorded as a world record.
How do we know the 1,140 inches is the truth?
First and foremost, the ’98-‘99 season, just like this year, was a La Niña year. With low temperatures coming from the Pacific, it pushes the jetstream further north with the addition of moisture, creating what we like to call a ‘powder day.’ Which, in simpler terms, pretty much guarantees that the northern mountainous areas (PNW, Montana, Idaho, BC, etc.) are destined for a bigger snowpack.
Just because it was a La Niña doesn’t mean it was a record-setting season!
Yes, that is true. Although, it does help create a record-setting season. Furthermore, what helps justify the truth is the NCEI (National Center for Environmental Information), which is in charge of the SCEC (State Climate Extreme Committee). The people here have been assigned to comprehensively evaluate meteorological observations that may have tied or exceeded records.
“Think of the SCEC as a sort of “CSI: Meteorology.”
– Via NCEI’s website
Those who work on this team put claims through serious scrutiny. This includes:
- Conducting an initial review on-site
- If the claim seems legitimate, they convene the SCEC and an ad-hoc committee of five (one NCEI representee and four representing local agencies)
- Then they examine the claim for rejection or acceptance
The process is no joke, and when Mt. Baker Ski Area was claimed to set the world record snowfall, there were four resort staff members calculating snowfall. These four used the parking lot located at 4,200-feet as the observation location. The NCEC, when assessing the record-breaking claim, evaluated the practices employed by these four. They were deemed correct and used the proper method of averaging various sample depths. This can be found via Twitter on the NOAA NCEI Climate account.
To add to the observers’ findings, they discovered that trees over 120 years old had snapped off. Whether you believe it or not, record or not, during the ’98-’99 ski season, if you skied Mt. Baker, you probably were surfing on snow all day.