Volume 106, Number 9 - February 26, 2009
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
Snowpack remains abundant
The latest snowpack totals for Sublette County and the latest temperature averages are at odds.
Much of the county is seeing snowpack levels at or near historical averages, despite a January and February with very few major snow systems.
“It’s been pretty mild, even for you guys,” said Jim Fahey, weather service hydrologist.
He noted that a staggering 260,000 acre-feet of snowpack would melt through to the Warren Bridge from April to July if current levels hold.
However, that hold is a tenuous one, as the county has experienced relatively mild temperatures at the year’s start. Pinedale averaged a high temperature of 32 degrees in January and 35 degrees in February. The historical averages for each month since 1948 are 26 degrees and 30 degrees.
“The mountain snowpack that we accumulated in December and January is still much better than average,” Fahey said. “They’re almost dropping to average now [from the milder temperatures], and we did lose some.”
Overall the Upper Green River region has a snowpack of about 88 percent of historical averages. That snowpack was 101 percent on Jan. 15.
Since the lack of snow and higher temperatures have not damaged the snowpack until recently, forecasters are optimistic that the severe drought conditions might be behind the region.
“We’ve kind of turned the corner on the soil moisture deficit,” Fahey said.
He also noted that the relatively soggy spring and cool summer in 2008 were also factors in helping the soil to hold moisture.
Still, locals aren’t seeing a whole lot of the snow in the valleys, which has tempered the optimism of some.
“Any time our snow reports are so robust when we have had so little snow down here, I get suspicious,” said Albert Sommers, president of The Upper Green River Cattle Association. “Ranchers do look at snowpack and make decisions, like how much to fertilize meadows in the spring based upon how much irrigation water may be available.”
Waterways and lakes have also seen a decrease in ice coverage, but fish populations are expected to remain unaffected.
“We’re not going to have a winter kill in our major lakes and we haven’t in quite a while,” said Hilda Sexauer, regional fish supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish. “Even in flowing waters, there’s not going to be much impact.”
As far as what the future forecast holds, there appears to be little out of the ordinary.
“No snow above or below average,” Fahey said. “We’re kind of in-between with normal temperatures and precipitation. We’re looking at no strong signatures either way.”
The Farmer’s Almanac calls for a wet and cool spring, Fahey added. Forecasters will wait and see whether this snowpack can hold on.
“We’re just going status quo,” he said. “No extremes.”
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