Monday, May 9, 2011
It seems the snow just keeps on coming, or falling, this year in Mt. Rainier NP. Above is the snow water equivalent (SWE) for May 9th, 2011 (link goes to NRCS Web page for the SWE for the site), and as you can see even in early May when snowmelt normally starts, it's just keep adding to the snowpack, shown on the road at Paradise below.
Those are about 18 foot poles in the photo. When the snow is usually considerably less and melting, the snow this year is melting and refreezing, compacting each cycle so the snow to water equivalent decreases, from a normal of 2.5 to 3 inches of snow for an inch of water, meaning 4 to 5 inches of water per foot of snow, it's down to just over 2 inches of snow per inch of water.
That's not only a lot of snow but a lot of water. And from soon when the temperatures consistently get warmer and the seasonal snowmelt actually starts, the water will go into the streams and the rivers, and eventually to the reservoirs and the Puget Sound (White, Puyallup and Nisqually Rivers) and Columbia River (Cowlitz River). We will have higher than normal summer streamflows later this summer and likely into fall.
Until then, it's snow in Mt. Rainier and will be into July, meaning, after the lower elevation snow melts in the NP, the mid and upper elevations will still have snow on the trails and in the backcountry. Take heart if you like snow and prepare if you don't.