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Date: 2/5/2018

Title: Snowpack and Drought Update

By Don Day, Jr., Meteorologist 

With winter halfway through we thought we would take a look at snowpack conditions in the western states and soil moisture conditions across the Plains.

The best precipitation this winter season has favored the northern states as well as the Pacific Northwest. On the flip side, dryness is becoming more and more of a concern in the central and southern Plains and Rockies. The map below shows drought status change over the past 12 months. The green areas show improvement in drought conditions compared to a year ago while the yellow and orange areas highlight the locations suffering from a drying trend and possible drought development.

The large area of orange and yellow developing in the Desert Southwest, Southern Rockies and into Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma is an area we are concerned will worsen in regards to dryness and possible drought conditions this spring and summer. Other dry areas are creeping into the far western areas of the Corn Belt and Midwest. Dryness also persists in the Northern Plains of eastern Montana and portions of the Dakotas.

We are seeing similar trends in the snowpack conditions. The best snowpack conditions are found in the Northern Rockies and the Pacific Northwest. Snowpack conditions are very poor in the Central and Southern Rockies. The graphic below shows very poor snowpack levels south of Interstate 70 while snowpack conditions are better farther north.

With the La Nina dominated pattern this winter so far, we expect current trends to continue which means better  snowpack conditions in WA, OR, ID, MT, WY and poor snowpack conditions in UT, CO, AZ, NM and in the southern portions of the California/Nevada Sierra Nevada.

Water users in the west, especially in the Central and Southern Rockies should expect much lower runoff conditions if current trends continue this winter.