compiled March 2007 by Mark Albright, Washington State Climatologist (1987-2003)
Last modified: Fri Feb 19 12:34:00 PST 2010
The Myth of the Vanishing Cascade Mtn Snowpack
Claims made in News Items and Government Reports:
Mayor Greg Nickels in the Seattle Times Feb 2007:
"In this city, people get how rising temperatures threaten our communities,
our economy and our way of life: It's the snow. The average snowpack in the
Cascades has declined 50 percent since 1950 and will be cut in half again in
30 years if we don't start addressing the problems of climate change now."
Reported by Time Magazine Mar 2006:
"Lately the early arrival of spring and the unusually blistering
summers have caused the snowpack to melt too early, so that by the
time it's needed, it's largely gone. Climatologist Philip Mote of the
University of Washington has compared decades of snowpack levels in
Washington, Oregon and California and found that they are a fraction of
what they were in the 1940s, and some snowpacks have vanished entirely."
From Uncertain Future: Climate Change and its Effects on Puget Sound, 2005:
"Almost everywhere in the Cascades, snowpack has declined
markedly since 1950."
From Oregon Strategy for Greenhouse Gas Reductions", Dec 2004:
"Already, according to Northwest scientists, we have lost 50 percent of the
snowpack in the Cascades since 1950, with global warming identified as the
"In the Cascades, the cumulative downward trend in snow-water equivalent is
approximately 50% for the period 1950-1995.
The Observed Snowpack Data:
March 29 mean snow depth at Rainy Pass on N Cascades Highway (4800 ft)
1940-1949 88 inches
1997-2006 88 inches - No Change!
March 1 mean snow depth at Snoqualmie Pass (3000 ft)
1940-1949 79 inches
1997-2006 90 inches - 14% increase!
2007 115 inches
March 1 mean snow depth at Paradise RS in Mt Rainier NP (5400 ft)
1940-1949 157 inches
1997-2006 163 inches - 4% increase!
2007 182 inches
Peak snowpack now reached on May 3, about five days later than 20 years ago.
Where does one go to find the 50% decrease in snowpack since 1950?