Saturday, May 12, 2018

Chena Basin Snowpack

Continuing with the theme of snowpack, here's an update on the conclusion of the snow season in the Chena Basin above Fairbanks.  Back in March I noted that the amount of snow on the ground was at near-record levels based on data from 5 SNOTEL sites in the hills, and it turns out that the snowpack did indeed reach an unprecedented level by late in April.  Historical data goes back to 1981.

As of a week ago, 3 of the 5 sites were reporting a greater snowpack (in terms of water equivalent) than in any other year on the same date.  Of course the major warm-up in the past few days has melted most of the snow at the lower elevation sites - Teuchet Creek (1640') melted out yesterday - but Mt Ryan (2800') still has 8" of water equivalent on the ground.  Even more remarkably, Munson Ridge (3100') is reporting 15.2" still on the ground (a record for the date) and a 47" snow depth.  The beginning of hiking season will be somewhat delayed in the White Mountains this year.

Here's a chart of snow water equivalent at Munson Ridge for this year and some other notable years.  The greatest snowpack of record occurred in 1991, but no other year retained so much snow at this late date.  It will be interesting to see how long it lasts; in 1982 there was still snow on the ground on June 13.

And here's an update to the multi-station chart that I showed before; the late winter snowpack has been much greater than in any recent year.  (The rapid rise in percent of normal at the end of April reflects the rapidly diminishing median value, as the median snowpack drops to zero in early May for 3 of the 5 sites.)

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