Wednesday, May 2, 2012
While last week was warmer with the possibility that spring was here to stay in Mt. Rainier NP, it was short-lived as a cold spell with snow (Longmire above) has returned and the NWS has forecast colder temperature into the weekend with the freezing level between 3,000 and 4,000 feet until Sunday. This has delayed the start of the seasonal snowmelt, as seen in the graph below compared to last year's snowpack and snowmelt.
It would be fair to see that the start of snowmelt normally occurs around the 8th of May, later in recent years (2008-2011) by 3-6 days. Two of those years had a normal end to the snowmelt in mid-July while the other two had a later than normal end, last year being the latest in recent history.
This means the start of snowmelt, the snowpack and the end of the snowmelt aren't consistent to forecast with much accuracy. It's the old idea we'll know when it ends when it ends and not a day sooner. It will all be dependent on the May and June weather which could vary from unseasonably cooler than normal to unseasonably warmer than normal.
So for now we can just sit and watch. But we know the snow will clear from the lower elevations very soon and progress up to the mid-elevations later in the month and into June. So take heart, it only gets better for snow-free hikes and eventually really nice places to hike and photograph.