Examining the ramifications of a record low snowpack

Dry winter could affect summer.

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Oregon is on pace for its driest winter since snow-monitoring software was introduced.

Portland Business Journal Editor Suzanne Stevens wrote that the “real pain of the low snow pack could come this summer”:

“We’re getting more and more concerned as we see more and more sunny days because that will drive out the snow we do have,” said Koeberle. “If we don’t see some precipitation this month, I would suspect that folks in different counties could be requesting help for draught conditions.”

Stevens wrote that the snow melt will be necessary to ensure robust waterways:

“The drought monitor folks are showing drought status is moderate to extreme in the state. Unless things turn around then we may face some shortages,” Koeberle said in the story.

The Portland Tribune reports that there is no reason to panic about an impending lack of drinking water, yet.

Laura Pramuk, public affairs officer for Mt. Hood National Forest, said rainfall in the forest has been at a normal level so far this year. The problem hindering snowpack has been temperature. According to the National Weather Service’s Feb. 7 Water Supply Outlook, winter temperatures were considerably higher than normal for Oregon in December and January. Although Pramuk said it is difficult to predict what the weather will do next, she anticipates rain won’t be an issue.

“Generally, this part of the country has a pretty wet spring,” she said.

Oregon Public Broadcasting expands on the grim news from Koeberle:

Things are looking even worse in Oregon. Statewide, average snowpack is 76 percent below normal levels. 

“One of our longest-monitored sites, near Bend, has the lowest snowpack ever recorded, breaking the 1977 record,” said Julie Koeberle, a hydrologist in Oregon with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The Bend site has been monitored since the early 1950s: “All eyes will be pointing on southern and southeastern Oregon if things don’t improve,” Koeberle said. Some of the lowest snow levels can be found in those areas, where water scarcity has created drought conditions in recent years.