Snowpack? Measuring it? What? And why?
Mountain snowpack is such an important indicator of how much water will be available for crop irrigation, river recreation and power generation that it’s monitored at dozens of sites around the state throughout the winter.
Ron Abramovich, water supply specialist with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, was part of a team that went out to measure the snowpack Thursday at two sites in Boise County. The manual measurements are done to confirm what automated Snotel sites are reporting.
The Boise Basin snowpack is almost 25 percent below normal, Abramovich said in a phone interview Wednesday.
“We’re not where we want to be,” he said. “ But we’ve still got 40 percent of the winter to go, so hopefully we’ll catch up. If not, there’s still hope with spring precipitation ... That’s kind of our last hope.”
Abramovich, who has done water forecasts for 28 years, said he typically gives a half-dozen public talks to farmers in January. This is when many are deciding which crops to plant, how much to plant and where.
One of the driest winters that Abramovich can recall was 2000-01. That winter the snowpack was 60 percent of normal on Feb. 1, 2001, and 53 percent of normal on April 1, 2001.
But forecasters have a bit of good news for those concerned about water supply this year: Storms are headed this way.
“For this weekend, we’ve got a slow-moving system moving through,” said Elizabeth Padian, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
The Boise mountains and west-central mountains should get 1 to 3 inches of snow on Saturday and another 1 to 3 inches on Sunday, she said. That precipitation figures to be rain in the cities and valleys.
“Not a whole lot of snow at once, but over the course of the weekend (it) could be several inches,” Padian said.
The elevation at which there is snow will be 4,500 feet to 5,000 feet over the weekend, but that is expected to drop by Monday. There’s a slight chance of snow showers in Boise late Monday and into Tuesday morning.
Boise has had a mild, warm, dry winter so far. We normally see about 14 inches of snow by this point, but there has been just 6.4 inches measured at the Boise Airport this winter.
Temperatures over the weekend in Boise will be warm, with highs of 49 on Friday, 50 on Saturday and 47 on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. Highs will drop to the 40s on Monday and 30s on Tuesday.