No sign of warming: Snowpack levels in Washington state are average again

By TODD MYERS  | 
POLICY NOTES
|
Apr 26, 2017

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Key Findings

  1. Some academics, like U.W. Professor Paul Johnson, say that declining snowpack levels in the Northwest is a sign of global warming.
     
  2. State Director of Ecology Maia Bellon says less snow and warm, dry winters “could be the new normal.”
     
  3. They’re wrong.  Snowpack levels have been above average in eight of the last ten years.
     
  4. In the winter of 2015-16 snowpack was 112% of normal.  In 2016-17 it was 115% of normal.
     
  5. Politicians and activists have a strong incentive to tell alarmist stories even when they are not true.
     
  6. However, imposing dramatic and costly public policies based on poor science shows the harm of believing false predictions about climate change.
     

It is one of the most common claims about the impact of climate change in the Pacific Northwest – the threat that our snowpack will decline, harming recreation, water supply, farmers, and fish. Recently, University of Washington professor Paul Johnson pointed to the claim that “our mountain snowpack is reduced by an increasingly earlier spring and later fall.

Actual snowpack data, however, contradict this oft-repeated claim, as shown in the graph below.