March 2014: Another wet one

March 2014 was ubiquitously wet across the northwest, most notably across western Washington and likely a contributing factor to the Oso landslide.  Despite a wet February and March, parts of the NW including the Columbia basin and western WA/OR are still well below normal for the water year. Fortunately, for the inland NW, most of the water rich areas (e.g., our mountains) are in decent shape that should help curtail some (but not all) of the regional water worries in the inland NW previously discussed, which is good news for agriculture in the Snake River plain.

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Parts of northwestern Montana east of the Bitterroots have been extremely wet. If you recall, Missoula had its snowiest February on record.  Just south of Missoula, Hamilton, MT had by far its wettest Feb-Mar on record.

Snow water equivalent observations reflect the strong longitudinal gradient across the NW with near record low numbers in the southern Cascades of Oregon to near record high numbers in southwestern Montana (image from UW Hydrology group and their drought monitoring system for the PNW).  The anomalously high snowpack and wet conditions in western Montana and parts of northern Idaho have provided the impetus for the National Interagency Fire Center to put much of that region in below-normal fire activity for June and July.

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March temperatures were a bit of a mixed bag, with warmer than normal conditions across Oregon and southern Idaho, close to normal across much of northern Idaho, eastern Washington and western Montana and well below normal east of the continental divide stretching across much of the eastern US. Thanks to those mountains for keeping that cold air at bay.

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Snowcast Challenge 2013-2014plot

The jump start on the water year at the Aneroid Snotel station (note Oct 1st SWE of 5″) in the Wallowa’s of NE Oregon provided the added boost to end March with above normal SWE at 26.5″. Due to a delay in receiving the official snowfall totals for Moscow, we’ll wait for the next post to announce the winner of the 3rd annual snowcast challenge. However, taking a look at the forecast matrix, it looks to be a close race.