compiled March 2007 by Mark Albright, Washington State Climatologist (1987-2003)

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 probable cause." "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! 2007
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?

Last modified: Fri Feb 19 12:34:00 PST 2010