Are We Facing a Low-Water 2012?

December 29, 2011 By: Marshall Cutchin

Watching the video from NBC News last night left us wondering whether the snow-less winter they documented will be reversed in time for spring fishing, or whether, as they report, unusual jet stream patterns will keep turning snow to rain.  “Reno will have its first snow-less season in over a century,” noted Mike Taibbi.

Colorado snowpack is far below yearly averages already, reports The Coloradoan.  Utah has only 50 percent of 2010 levels, and much of Montana is at only 75% of normal.  The Oregonian also asks, “Where is the snow?”  And the Midwest and New England don’t look like they will escape either: the Associated Press reports the “least snow New England has seen in November and December since the late 1990s,” and that La Nina is at least partly responsible for a lack of snow in Michigan, South Dakota and other states.

Why does it matter whether precipitation arrives as snow or rain?  Because melting snowpack provides season-long inflows that keeps river levels steady.  Lower snow levels mean less dramatic runoff and good early season fishing.  (Excess snowpack caused a late season, lost bookings, and lots of headaches for Rocky Mountain outfitters in 2011.)  But not enough snow almost always shortens the season.

Is it too late for catch-up?  No, but climatologists are certainly on alert.