Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Skinny snowpack

It was just what Stillwater County needed. Or at least a good start.
A spring snowstorm last Tuesday and Wednesday brought 1.6 inches of heavy, wet snow that translated into .70 inches of moisture in Columbus. Mystic Lake saw similar results, with 5 inches of snow bringing .78 inches of moisture. The north country was left out, with just a trace of snowfall, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).
With the 3,000-acre Pine Crest wildfire already in the books this year, many are hoping for a wet spring to help stave off increasingly dry conditions.
Skinny snowpack
Mountain snowpack has taken a hard hit during the past several weeks. As of April 21, not one of the 21 basins monitored by the Nature Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) was at or above 90 percent of normal. The highest number among Montana basins was 86 percent of normal in the Upper Clark Fork Basin.
Six basins were in the 80 percentile, 10 are the 70 percentile, three are in the 60 percentile and two were in the 50 percentile, according to NRCS.
The Upper and Lower Yellowstone Basins are 77 percent and 76 percent respectively. A month ago, those numbers were 110 percent and 105 percent.
•Jefferson River Basin: 70 percent (down from 101% one month ago)
•Madison River Basin: 62 percent (84%)
•Gallatin River Basin: 82 percent (103%)
•Missouri Headwaters: 70 percent (98%)
A Dry March
In March, Columbus received 4.1 inches of snow and no precipitation. The normal March snowfall amount is 7.7 inches and 1.09 inches of precipitation. Mystic Lake’s March numbers were 7.7 inches of snow and no rain at all, compared to the normal 29.8 inches of snowfall and .08 inches of rain, according to the NWS.
And in Rapelje, 7 inches of snow and no rain in March compared to the normal amounts of 12.6 inches and .04 inches, respectively.
While the moisture lacked, March temperatures were unseasonably high. In Columbus the average daily high was 60.3 degrees, more than 8 degrees higher than normal. The average daily reading was 43.5 degrees compared to the normal reading of 37.4 degrees, according to the NWS. Mystic Lake’s average daily high was nearly 6 degrees warmer than normal at 48 degrees. The daily average 38.5 degrees was more than 5 degrees above normal.
And in Rapelje, the average daily high of 58.9 degrees was more than 9.5 degrees warmer than normal. The daily average temperature of 42.9 degrees was 6.7 degrees above normal, according to the NWS.