Skip Navigation

News Release

Oregon snowpack report leaves much to be desired in most of state

NEWS_RELEASE_HEADER-UPDATED

News Release: 2019-02-013

Contact:
Scott Oviatt, Snow Survey Supervisory Hydrologist
503-414-3271, scott.oviatt@or.usda.gov

Julie Koeberle, Snow Survey Hydrologist
503-414-3272, julie.koeberle@or.usda.gov

PORTLAND, Ore. - (Feb. 8, 2019) - A generally warm and dry January left most of the state with below normal snowpack. Snow in western and central Oregon is currently 50-70 percent of normal. Eastern Oregon has fared better with snow conditions ranging from 80-100 percent of normal for this time of year. This according to the February Water Supply Outlook Report released by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Western Oregon has been the driest region in the state so far this winter, which when combined with generally warmer mountain temperatures has resulted in snowpack accumulation well below normal amounts leading into February. This trend lines up with NOAA’s three-month long-range forecast which predicts warmer than normal temperatures and lower than normal precipitation.

“While a few more months of winter means there is still time for snowpack conditions to improve, a full snowpack recovery throughout the entire state is unlikely,” said Scott Oviatt, Snow Survey supervisory hydrologist.

Based on current conditions and long-range weather forecasts, water supplies may be limited this summer across Oregon. Water users should be aware that nearly 75 percent of the state is currently listed in a severe or extreme drought status by the National Drought Monitor.

Map of Oregon snow water equivalent by basin.

Snowy mix

Warmer temperatures and variable precipitation patterns have resulted in complex snowpack conditions across the state. Western Oregon’s winter weather has been elusive. Rain fell at times when it should have been snowing, and the season has been unusually dry. Western Oregon’s snow ranges from 51 percent of normal in the Willamette basin to 60 percent of normal in the Rogue and Umpqua basins.

Snow conditions improve moving eastward. Most basins in eastern Oregon are slightly below to near normal. The highest snowpack in the state is in the Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Willow basins at 102 percent of normal.

It’s important to note while snowpack levels are quite low in many parts of the state, they have been lower during this time of year. Last year at this time, all snow measuring sites in the state were below normal, and most of southern Oregon snowpack was below 50 percent of normal.

River in the sky

A mid-month “atmospheric river” in January brought significant precipitation to southern Oregon (90-100 percent of average). Conversely, northern and central Oregon were exceptionally dry.

The Hood, Sandy, and Lower Deschutes basins were the driest in the state at 53 percent of average. Elsewhere January precipitation was 70-80 percent of average.

Although January precipitation was near normal in southern Oregon, all basins in the state are below average in terms of seasonal precipitation. Most of the state has seen between 75-85 percent of normal precipitation since the water year began on Oct. 1.

Streams and storage

Most of Oregon’s major irrigation reservoirs are storing below average amounts of water as of the end of January. The Grande Ronde, Powder, Burnt, and Imnaha basins have the lowest storage at 63% of average. Willamette basin reservoirs have the highest storage at 93 percent of average, collectively.

Based on the current precipitation and snowpack conditions, streamflow forecasts are also leaning towards below average volumes this summer. Western and central Oregon’s summer streamflow forecasts are expected to be below normal, ranging from 70-90 percent of average this summer. These forecasts are not as low as current snow conditions might suggest because streamflows in these regions are often bolstered by rainfall this time of year.

Eastern Oregon streamflow forecasts predict summer volumes ranging from 60-100 percent of normal.

For a basin-by-basin streamflow forecast and guidance on interpreting streamflow forecasts, water users should review the February Water Supply Outlook Report.

About snow survey

The NRCS Snow Survey is the federal program that measures snow and provides streamflow forecasts and snowpack data for communities, water managers and recreationalists across the West. In Oregon, snow measurements are collected from 81 SNOTEL sites, 42 manually measured snow courses, and 26 aerial markers. Water and snowpack information for all SNOTEL sites nationwide is available on the Snow Survey website in a variety of formats. The reports are updated every hour and are available at: www.or.nrcs.usda.gov/snow.

NRCS publishes six monthly Oregon Water Supply Outlook Reports between Jan. 1 and June 1 every year. To regularly receive this information as an email announcement, visit the Oregon NRCS Snow Survey website and click the “email updates” icon to subscribe.

#