Does this week's fresh snow get us near normal snowpack?
I was grabbing a cup of coffee Wednesday morning when someone asked about our upcoming snow storm. Not how much snow will we get, or when it will start or end, but what does this mean for our snowpack? More specifically, will our latest storm get us back to where we should be this time of year in terms of snowfall?
That is a big question that needs to be broken down, but the short answer is we are actually pretty close to where we should be.
Our dud of a storm still blanketed Anchorage in 1.4 inches of snow Wednesday, then another 0.3 inch of snow early Thursday. It's easy to get hung up on how much snow has fallen, but total moisture and remaining snow depth are just as important.
Despite the bouts of warmer temps and the seemingly uncalled-for rain, we are close to normal in terms of moisture in Anchorage.
Think back to last fall — temperatures were mild and the snow just didn't come; it was rain through October.
Even though October typically sees almost 8 inches of snow on the ground, less than an inch was recorded during the entire month.
November wasn't anything to brag about either. Just 4.8 inches of snow fell during the second snowiest month of the year.
Now, just because we didn't get the snow lots of us wanted doesn't mean we didn't get the moisture. In fact, each month of fall and winter so far have reported more moisture than normal.
Both October and November recorded more precipitation than in a typical year. It was just rain. October's 2.81 inches of precipitation was 0.78 inch above normal, and November's 1.46 inches of precipitation was 0.3 inch above normal.
This past few months brought much more than that. A whopping 8.37 inches of precipitation fell on Anchorage since October. Compared to our normal 5.57 inches of precipitation in that same time period that is a big difference. Half again as much as we should get!
After the lack of snow in both October and November, things changed quickly. December blanketed the bowl in an arm-busting 32.6 inches of snow. That is almost double what the month is supposed to bring and enough to make giant leaps in the game of catch-up. As the month came to a close, Anchorage was actually 0.1 inch above normal on season-to-date snowfall.
January returned things to where they have been the past few years: virtually snowless. A disappointing 5.5 inches of snow accumulated during the entire month. (There was a single day in December that brought more than that.)
Thankfully February brought snow back to Southcentral. So far this month, we are at more than 4 inches above where we should be to date.
When you do the math, we aren't that far from normal.
By Feb. 20 we should have some 57.1 inches of snow in the record books. This season comes up just 1.2 inches shy of that, not even enough snow to top my sneakers as I jump out of the car. The rest of the month looks likely to be snowless in Anchorage. If that holds true, we will end up just shy of 4 inches below where we should season-to-date.
Ignoring the roller-coaster ride that got us here, the real meat of this all is how much snow is on the ground. Right now we are sitting at a snow depth of 20 inches. That is actually above normal for this time of year! With more snow on the way, that is nothing but good news.
This winter (including October, November and the first half of December) has been much warmer than normal. Warm enough that a lot of our would-be snow has fallen as rain.
As we round out the last months of the freezing season and head into spring and summer, the snowpack is what really counts. It's what fills rivers and streams, keeps moisture in the ground and gets us a jump start on summer.
With our snowpack pretty close to where it should be, that is good news for the residents of Anchorage and the surrounding communities reporting similar snowpacks.
Melissa Frey contributed information to this report.
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