Snowpack: What a Difference a Year Makes

Taylor Hillman Drought, Water, Weather

Snowy mountain tops in Yosemite
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released it’s latest water and climate update which shows a a big difference in snowpack totals from a year ago.

Courtesy: USDA

Courtesy: USDA

USDA states we are currently about halfway through the snow accumulation season in the West. A comparison of snowpack conditions now versus those of a year ago reveals some significant contrasts. The areas circled in red are particularly notable.

In the Cascades and Sierra, there was virtually little to no snow in 2015, whereas this year, snowpacks are near to above normal. Similarly, snowpacks were well below normal in the Southwest (including the circled area of Arizona but also parts of Utah and Colorado to the north) in 2015, whereas now they are above normal.


The current snow water equivalent percent of median map shows similar spatial patterns as last week, but the percentages have all decreased because the past week’s precipitation was low. Nevertheless, snowpack remains at or above median over most areas of the West, except in Wyoming, northwestern Montana, and northern Idaho, which are below median. View current snow water equivalent map.


The 7-day precipitation percent of average map shows that last week was predominantly dry over the West. The main exceptions to this pattern were wet conditions in northern Washington and central Utah. View the 7-day total precipitation map.


The national month-to-date precipitation percent of average map shows large areas of below normal precipitation in much of the country. The main exceptions, with above normal precipitation, are a patchy distribution of areas including parts of the East Coast, southern Florida, the southern tip of Texas, Arizona, and northern California. View month-to-date total precipitation map.

View more maps and the entire report from USDA.