When you live in Idaho, no matter your passion or pursuit, there's little question that you pay attention to the ebb and flow of winter storms and snowfall. So far this year things look pretty good for much of the state with central Idaho snowpacks ranging from 130 to 140 percent of average.
Kayakers and rafters depend on good snowfall for healthy spring runoff. Farmers depend on good snowfall to supply water to their crops. Salmon and steelhead need good snowpacks to help flush them out to sea when spring arrives. And more snow equates to cooler water temperatures, which our native trout and salmon need to survive.
"We're in a good pattern right now for the Pacific Northwest. The moisture's coming in," said Natural Resources Conservation Service Water Supply Specialist Ron Abramovich. "It's a great start, but if we compare the current snowpack right now to what we need on April 1 we have a ways to go."
The upper Snake River basin is only about 25 percent of its total annual average snowpack, for example. That figure is in line with much of central Idaho. The Brunueau River basin, however, is already about 50 percent of its total annual average snowpack.
North American weather is under the influence this year of a strong warming of the Equatorial Pacific Ocean--called El Niño. El Niño is often known to cause warm and dry weather in the Pacific Northwest, but Abramovich pointed out that southern Idaho is less predictable.
"Out of the last dozen El Niño years, about half were above normal in southern Idaho," he said. "Only one in northern Idaho was above average."
Although things look promising so far for skiers, river runners, farmers and cold water dependent fisheries, Abramovich recommended cautious optimism: "It's only December, so we need these storms to continue."