Snowfall running below average in state

Abnormally warm temperatures and a lack of precipitation are causing low snow accumulations. Temperatures are averaging about 5 percent above 50-year norms. The Eagle/Patrick Bentz

Snowfall totals in Oregon are running below average again this year, after a one-year reprieve from drought conditions.-

According to information from the National Resource Conservation Service Web site, year-to-date precipitation totals are running from 79 percent of average in the Owyhee Basin to 53 percent of average in the North Coast Range.-

Some locations do have near-normal accumulations of precipitation, such as Taylor Canyon in the Owyhee Basin at 111 percent of normal, but they are few and far between.-

In the John Day Basin, SNOTEL reporting stations show precipitation amounts ranging from 86 percent of normal at Derr to 54 percent of normal at Madison Butte.-

Starr Ridge is reporting 7.6 inches of rain, 77 percent of average.

Abnormally warm temperatures and a lack of precipitation are causing the low snow accumulations. Temperatures are averaging about 5 percent above 50-year norms, helping to melt what little snow is falling.-

Reporting stations in the Central Washington Cascades are showing a snow pack 11 percent of normal.

-The NCRS declared a Moderate Drought (D1) status across the interior Northwest as of Feb. 1, including Grant County.-

Northwestern Oregon, including the Willamette Valley, is being declared Abnormally Dry, while Southern Harney and Malheur counties are being declared Severe Drought.

-The Climate Prediction Center of the National Weather Service is forecasting an enhanced risk for drought across much of the Pacific Northwest.-This includes above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation forecast through April.

-The recent heavy snowfall in California and the Southwestern US is not likely a product of El Nino, according to the CPC.-

State Climatologist George Taylor believes that conditions may change as spring approaches.-

"I think we're going to have a wet spring. Historically, when we have dry falls and winters we get wet springs," he said.-

Taylor pointed out that parts of Eastern Oregon have received close to normal rainfall; for example, Lake County has received 89 percent of average.-

"The John Day Basin is closer to average than many places," he said.

-The fall and winter forecast released by the Oregon Climate Service at Oregon State University, predicted above-average temperatures and normal to above-normal precipitation through December; and normal to below-normal temperatures and average or above-average precipitation through March.

Except for above-normal temperatures in January and little snow, the forecast has been fairly accurate.

-Eastern Oregon tends to receive about half of its precipitation in the summer months through thunderstorms, which cannot be predicted at a climatological level, Taylor said.

"Southeast Oregon has been the worst in the state drought-wise," he said, and pointed out that drought designations were lifted last summer except for Southeast Oregon, and were reintroduced this spring because stream flows are expected to be below normal.

-According to the NCRS, many reservoirs are already at or above average water levels.- This may indicate that much of the precipitation has already melted or has fallen as rain, and has reached the reservoirs. Unity Reservoir is holding 143 percent more water than last year, and is at 40 percent of capacity.

-The Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI), a measurement of how much water is available, shows that the Upper John Day Basin was above the levels for the past two years until a drop in February.

The SWSI is measured on a five-month average, so changes in precipitation may not show up immediately.

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