Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Snowpack Level in Glacier Well Above Long-term Average

According to the latest data published by the Flattop Mountain SNOTEL (SNOw TELemetry) station, the amount of snow accumulated in Glacier National Park this year is already well above the 40-year average. As of April 13th, the SNOTEL is reporting that Snow Water Equivalent (SWE), which is the weight of snow water equivalent to inches of water, has currently peaked at 53.9 inches. The peak for the 40-year SWE average is 45.9 inches.

Last year, total SWE peaked on May 2nd with a reading of 52.5 inches. In 2012, SWE peaked on May 7th, with a reading of 56 inches, and on May 10, 2011, the SWE reading reached 66.1 inches.

With the heavy snowpack Glacier National Park has experienced over the last several years, I would be real curious to see what the updated measurements are for the major glaciers in the park. Most of the data I've seen hasn't been updated in recent years. In fact, much of the data from the Glacier Monitoring Studies from the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center appears to have been updated prior to 2010. However, I noticed on my most recent hike to Iceberg Lake two years ago that the amount of ice in and around the lake was much greater than what I witnessed in 1999 or 2004. I confirmed this by reviewing my photographs of the lake. All three of those hikes occurred around late August.

All in all, this year's snowpack potentially bodes well for a limited forest fire season later this summer and fall.

The Flattop Mountain SNOTEL station is located at an elevation of approximately 6300 feet on Flattop Mountain, which is a high plateau between the Lewis and Livingston Ranges in Glacier National Park. According to the website, "Flattop Mountain is a useful indicator of snowfall throughout Glacier National Park because it is subject to the factors that influence conditions elsewhere in the park".

Data from the Flattop Mountain SNOTEL is compiled by water year, which runs from October 1st through September 30th.

The following is a graph that compares SWE for 2014 (black line) versus the average (green line) and the maximum and minimum water years (you can click here for a larger version):

Hiking in Glacier National Park

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