January didn’t exactly distinguish itself with blizzards, but neither did the month dig into the snowpack around Northeastern Oregon.
That snow, which is a vital source of water for irrigation and recreation during the spring and summer, held relatively steady during the first month of 2023, remaining above average at most measuring sites.
Overall, the water content in the snow at 18 sites spread across the region was 21% above average on Feb. 1.
Although it’s still relatively early in the snowpack season — the water content typically peaks in March or April, depending on the elevation — the outlook is more promising than it was a year ago.
The water content on Feb. 1 was higher than on the same date a year ago at 17 of the 18 measuring stations.
(Water content is a more meaningful statistic than snow depth, because snow depth doesn’t always reflect how much water will trickle out when the snow melts. A few inches of wet snow can hold as much water as a foot or more of fresh, dry powder.)
In the Elkhorn Mountains, the water content at Anthony Lakes — the snow-measuring course is in a meadow just east of Anthony Lake, at an elevation of 7,125 feet — the water content was 18.7 inches, or 25% above average. A year ago the water content was 14.9 inches.
In the Wallowa Mountains the snowpack is closer to average, but still slightly above at most sites. At Schneider Meadows, in the southern Wallowas north of Halfway, the water content on Feb. 1 was 19.8 inches — 6% above average. A year ago the water content there was 17.5 inches.
In the northern Wallowas, the water content was 21% above average at Aneroid Lake, south of Wallowa Lake, and 2% above average at Mount Howard, southeast of Wallowa Lake.
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