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Oregon snowpack fails again to reach normal standard

January 12, 2019
FILE - This Feb. 22, 2018 file photo shows a reservoir on Mount Tabor framed by snowy scenery with a view of the Portland, Ore., skyline in the distance. Oregon's snowpack is below normal again and data shows the state is reaching historically normal levels less often. The Natural Resources Conservation Service shows the state's snow-water equivalent in the mountains is 72 percent of normal, with the number lower in western Oregon, the Statesman Journal reported Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP, File)

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s snowpack is below normal again and data shows the state is reaching historically normal levels less often.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service shows the state’s snow-water equivalent in the mountains is 72 percent of normal, with the number lower in western Oregon, the Statesman Journal reported Thursday.

The state has reached a normal snowpack level only in four of the last 10 years, according to the federal data.

“It’s pretty clear that the idea of what’s normal is shifting, and that we’ve just become accustomed to these bad or below average years,” said Kathie Dello, a climate scientist with Oregon State University. “That’s particularly true in years where people are still able to go skiing — we just don’t notice it as much.”

Lower elevations in western Oregon had meager snowfall, largely accounting for the state’s low snowpack. Snow in the Cascade Range at about 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) is doing OK, but it sharply drops off below that elevation, said Scott Oviett, snow survey hydrologist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“While we might be seeing snow at 5,000 feet, places below that are seeing more rain than snow,” Oviett said.

The normal snowpack standard is based on historical data from 1981 to 2010. The standard will be updated in 2020 to take into account data over the prior decade.

The update should be an interesting moment, Oviett said, because “the warm temperatures and early melt-outs and prolonged dry stretches are very different from what we’ve seen historically.”

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Information from: Statesman Journal, http://www.statesmanjournal.com

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