Hydrologists hope late snow, cold temps bode well for summer
They say April showers bring May flowers. Well, in the Hood, Sandy, and Lower Deschutes region of Oregon, hydrologists are hopeful that April snow could bring summer H2O.
April 1 is the usual peak of the snowpack season, but with unseasonably cold and snowy weather in April, Scott Oviatt with the Oregon Snow Survey said: "there's good news for this region."
While other parts of the state's precipitation and snowpack leave much to be desired, especially southeastern Oregon, Oviatt said the Mount Hood area's snowpack is well above the historic peak and we've now passed the point of when our snowpack would typically start melting out.
"That storm in April really helped out this region," Oviatt said. "We're still getting snow accumulation above 4,000 feet (in elevation). Snowpack is melting, but we're building snowpack as well. It'll be interesting to see what the stream flows look like this year."
The snowpack on Mount Hood as of April 27 was 167% of the historic median for the region, compared to 126% of median last year this time. Snowpack on Mount Hood now is better than it was early February of this year when it was at 136%, and even better than the 117% measurement reported in the April 1 Oregon Basin Outlook Report.
As of April 1, before the storms hit, NCRS representatives were less hopeful about the water year outlook, though the Hood region was still in the best shape comparatively.
On April 1, the lowest snowpack was 21% of median in the Malheur Basin, and the highest was 95% in the Hood, Sandy, and Lower Deschutes Basin.
Now, Hood, Sandy and Lower Deschutes remain at the top, and the Malheur basin remains the lowest at 23% of median.
A lack of snowpack in the spring and summer means a faster rate of melting and runoff, and potential drought conditions.
While a drought isn't entirely out of the question, Oviatt said this year's conditions now are looking better than this time last year.
"We should start melting out later this year," Oviatt said. "The big unknown is how fast precipitation will diminish and how temperatures will rise and how hot it will get. (Those factors) will determine how we rebound from previous droughts."
In terms of precipitation, the data from last year and this year are fairly comparable; last year this time the precipitation was at 95% of the median value from between 1991 and 2020. As of April 27, this year, that value was only slightly higher at 101%.
"The thing to think about is that median," Oviatt said. "There's room for improvement, obviously."
That said, Oviatt added that "optimism is here."
"We had this late pulse (of snow) and cooler temperatures that not only maintained the snowpack but built upon it," he said. "At the end of March, we thought we'd dry out. For our region, I think it's as good as it can get right now. We don't want to jump for joy, but we're a lot happier than we were one month ago this time."
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