Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012 12:00 PM
John O'Connell/Capital Press
Mountains are blanketed with snow above 7,000 feet in the Teton Mountain Range of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, located near the border of Idaho and Wyoming. The snowpack in the Henry's Fork and Teton Basin are now a combined 132 percent of normal, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Snow levels near record in some areas, while other areas remain bare
By JOHN O'CONNELL
Ron Abramovich describes the current Idaho snowpack as the strangest he's ever seen.
Above 7,000 feet in certain parts of the state, snowpack levels are near record highs. Below that elevation, however, unseasonably warm weather has left slopes virtually bare.
Unusual as the start to the water year that began in October has been, Abramovich, water supply specialist with the Idaho Natural Resources Conservation Service, said it bodes well for agriculture. He explained moisture that's fallen as rain has saturated soils so spring snowmelt won't be absorbed.
"We'll have to wait and see how the rest of the season goes. We know we're off to a good start because snows up high do melt later, and we know our soils are primed from the moisture," Abramovich said. "We're in a wet track. Moisture is coming in, and we just need colder temperatures to make it fall as snow."
Ocean conditions appear neutral, whereas the conditions known as La Niña tend to result in greater precipitation in the Pacific Northwest. By contrast, El Niño conditions often mean a dry winter in the region.
In the Idaho panhandle, snowpack for the water year is 126 percent of normal, and total precipitation is 153 percent of normal, Abramovich said. Two measuring sites in the region, Bear Mountain and Hidden Lake, have received 35 inches of moisture since Oct. 1, a near record high.
The Bear River Drainage has 93 percent of its normal snowpack and 98 percent of its normal moisture. The Snake River Basin above Palisades Reservoir has 114 percent of normal snowpack. The combined snowpack for the Henry's Fork and Teton basins is at 132 percent of normal.
However, in the Owyhee Basin, a lower elevation range in Idaho's southwest corner, moisture is 107 percent of average, but the snowpack is just 16 percent of average.
Abramovich said recent temperatures in the Boise area have hovered near record highs, at around 60 degrees.
"We've seen a recovery in stream flow already," Abramovich said.