Above-average snow totals continue

By: 
Alexis Barker

Alexis Barker

NLJ Reporter

 

Another winter storm, threatening significant accumulation of snowfall was headed this way as this issue of the newspaper went to press on Tuesday evening, but the area is already well ahead of most years when it comes to the amount of snow on the ground.

Newcastle and surrounding areas have had above-average snowfall, according to Hydrologist Melissa Smith of the National Weather Service in Rapid City. Snowpack in the area is also holding steady and above average, according to the March 1 Black Hills Snow Course Readings. 

“We are well above average this year, double — almost triple — what we normally get,” Smith said.

According to her reports, between Jan. 1 and March 4, Newcastle has received 32.4 inches of snow. The average for the same time period, is about 13 inches, Smith said. 

“This year is ranked third for snowfall, for the same time period. The last time this happened was last year, ironically enough, with 32 inches last year,” Smith said. 

The highest snowfall record for the time period was set in 2003, according to Smith, with 37 inches falling between Jan. 1 and March 4. 

Weston County Natural Resource District Manager Lacey Sloan confirmed that Newcastle had 12.5 inches of snow in January with 0.76 inches of snow water equivalent. In February, the area had 18.9 inches of snow, with 1.02 inches of snow water equivalent. 

Snow water equivalent, or SWE, is a common snowpack measurement for the amount of water contained in the snowpack. It can be thought of as the depth of water that would theoretically result if the snowpack were to melt instantaneously, according to Jason Nehl, a U.S. Department of Agriculture resource specialist in Sundance. 

According to the Black Hills Snow Course Reading for March 1, Little Bear Run and Mallo both have above average snow water equivalent, with snow depth increasing from the February readings. 

Little Bear Run, according to the report, had a current snow depth of 21.5 inches, up from 16.6 in February. The snow water equivalent for this snowpack is 4.2 inches, or 127 percent of the 30-year median. 

Mallo has a snow depth of 30.9 inches, up from 28.1 last month. The snow water equivalent is 7.1 inches or 118 percent of the 30-year median. 

But what does this mean moving into the warmer months?

Nehl said that the data can be “kind of tricky” when trying to forecast long-term conditions in the area because the Black Hills and surrounding areas are at such a low elevation, as far as mountains go, and are much more subject to drastic changes than higher elevations. 

“To clarify a bit, we can have a good snowpack in January or February that looks like it will translate to heavy stream flows in May,” Nehl said. “Then, we can have a warm two- to three-week period that melts out the majority of the snowpack and we end up with below-average spring runoff.” 

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