Ken Clark

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Snow Drought in the West

December 27, 2011; 12:39 PM

A lack of storms for the month of December for the Sierra and even places like Utah and Colorado has meant lower-than-normal snowpack. In the case of the Sierra, it has been an especially snowless December, and when comparing it to last year by this time, the differences are monumental.

The following are two maps from the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center. The first map is the normal December snow depth and the second is the current snow department as of Tuesday morning.

This last map clearly shows the Sierra having very little snow compared to normal with below-normal snowfall from central Idaho to Utah and parts of Colorado. The one anomaly in the Southwest is that the mountains of Arizona are above normal.

The snow depth in the Washington Cascades is running above normal even though up until the last day or two precipitation has been below normal this month. November, however, was a pretty stormy month, and of course, we are going to end this year stormy in the Northwest as well as several storms slam ashore.

Prospects for a big storm for the Sierra are not at all good for more than a week out. It will stay precipitation-free through the end of the year. While it may not be totally precipitation-free for the first two weeks of January, it very well possibly could still be below normal precipitation wise, especially the farther south you go in the Sierra.

This is truly looking very much what a La Nina winter should look like and since La Nina is expected to continue so should the drier than normal conditions in much of the Southwest.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or


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About This Blog

Ken Clark
Ken Clark's Western U.S. weather blog tackles daily weather events with commentary from one of the most experienced and trusted Western U.S. weather experts.