From the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service:
Palmer, April 20 - Hydrologists from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service report high snow pack in Alaska, to no surprise to Alaskans, but the extent of record breaking could be alarming.
Snow survey data, gathered from SNOTEL and snow course sites, is used to forecast river flow volume, breakup flooding potential, avalanche danger, summer forest fire probability, and fresh water availability for municipalities and power generation. And, we cannot forget that salmon fishing is directly affected by high water – when the rivers run high, the tendency is for the fish to migrate in higher concentrations, meaning shorter, faster runs. Snow survey information also contributes to calculating winter severity with respect to wildlife survival.
Breakdown of record breaking:
Within the Arctic Valley, the Anchorage Hillside SNOTEL site showed 185 percent snow water content compared to average. The Moraine SNOTEL site, above Eklutna Lake, broke a 1960 record with 176 percent of average snow water content. Most impressive is in Portage Valley, where snow water content was 252 percent of average. We can expect high water in the creeks and should be cognizant of flooding and streambank erosion.
Prince William Sound region broke three records at these sites: Worthington Glacier, Lowe River, and Mt. Eyak. The highest percent of average was found at Mt. Eyak, but records only started there in 2005 in comparison to Lowe River where record keeping began in 1972. Lowe River broke a 1980 record of 66 inches of snow with a whopping 74 inches this year. Anglers will need to be attentive to how the high water affects the fish run.
The Upper Yukon snowpack is eerily similar to 2009 when the village of Eagle flooded. Flooding can still be avoided if spring temperatures rise slowly, but there is plenty of snow to melt with two snow courses recording the second highest water content on record: Meadow Creek recorded 15.4 inches of water content as compared to the record in 2008 of 16.3 inches. Mt. McIntyre, near Whitehorse, recorded 8.9 inches of water content compared to 9.5 in 2011. The Log Cabin snow course set a new record snow water content this year with records going back to 1958. All of the snow courses in the Upper Yukon and Dawson/Stewart/Pelly regions measured above average water content, varying from 120 to 138 percent of normal. Let’s hope breakup is slow and steady.
For more information about snowpack, precipitation, runoff and water supplies for specific basins, visit http://www.ambcs.org/.
Alaska Public Affairs
USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service
Release number: 2012_04_20
News Contact: Molly Voeller, Public Affairs Specialist
Phone: (907) 761-7749
Program Contact: Rick McClure, Snow Survey Lead
Phone: (907) 271-2424 ex 113