California Department Of Water Resources

As the first full week of March began, mountain snowpack in the Rogue Basin was running about 53%.  Meaning about HALF the snowpack we get in a typical year. 

Meaning drought could be in our future, unless we get pounded by winter storms the rest of the month (not likely).  In the Klamath Basin, the numbers are even worse. 

The Natural Resources Conservation Service of the federal government keeps track of the numbers. 

Nigel Chadwick, CC BY-SA 2.0,

It takes a lot of ingredients for a forest to grow on a mountain.  Snow in the winter is one of them. 

So what happens when snowstorms get few and far between, as in this winter?  That's a question we will likely see the answer to in the years ahead. 

And it's a subject Dr. Anne Nolin has already been considering in her work at Oregon State University's College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.  She talks about "Snow-forest Interactions in a Changing World" in the next geology lecture at Southwestern Oregon Community College in Coos Bay (on March 3rd). 

Introvert, CC BY-SA 2.5,

Maybe you're the kind of person who appreciates winter weather far from the beaten path.  If so, would you mind measuring some snow while you're out there? 

No joke here; Community Snow Observations is a citizen science project enlisting the help of backcountry skiers, snowshoers, and other winter recreationists to measure snowpack. 

Scientists and telemetry sites can't cover all the places where snow fall, so this is where the amateurs come in. 

California Department of Water Resources

It's been quite a year for snowfall... an exceptional year, by any measure. 

And we have the latest measures in hand, with the end-of-March snowpack surveys just completed. 

The always-on measuring devices show a minimum of 120% of normal snowpack on either side of the state line. 

California's Water Supply At Risk From Warmer Winters

Feb 15, 2016
Olivia Allen-Price/KQED

Any sign of precipitation in the forecast is a welcome sight for Californians these days. But with temperatures expected to be above normal this winter, California’s snowpack may not reach the heights it could.

Alex Lockhart/Public Domain

The recent reports on snowpack in the region are encouraging. 

In Southern Oregon, snowpack is way above what is considered normal for January. 

But that's one month, and a lot can happen on the way to spring and summer. 

Crater Lake webcam

December gave Southern Oregon a big jump start on winter snowpack.  The National Weather Service office reports that December snowfall at Crater Lake broke a record, with 196.7 inches of snow.  That edged out the old record of 196.0, set in 1948.

California Department of Water Resources

Snow surveys are supposed to find snow.  But in the mild winter we had, little precipitation fell as snow. 

Most of the later-in-the-season surveys turned up dirt. 

California's snow surveys came out even worse than Oregon's. 

Mount Ashland Looks Ahead To A Real Winter

Sep 26, 2014
Mt. Ashland Ski Area

Fall arrives with rising hopes for a good winter in the mountains. 

Last year's scant snowpack prevented the Mount Ashland Ski Area from opening--for even a single day--for business. 

That prompted a number of changes within the organization, including a change in management. 

New GM Hiram Towle is now in place and making plans for the coming ski season. 

How Low Is The Snow? A Drought Update

Feb 11, 2014
California Department of Water Resources

Recent rain and snow are good to have, but probably not good enough. 

The region is way behind in precipitation, and California's governor already declared a drought weeks ago.  Oregon may follow suit if the conditions demand.