The North Cascades Highway. (Washington State Department of Transportation)

The North Cascades Highway. (Washington State Department of Transportation)

Warmer temperatures mean more snowpack melting

A hot, dry summer could wreak havoc on the Snoqualmie River system.

In the wake of a historic heat wave, snow has been melting off.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), North Puget Sound near Bellingham and the Central Columbia basins were either snow-free or close as of July 2. On the contrary, South Puget Sound and the Lower Columbia Basin were both over 139 percent of normal snowpack.

In King County, the Olallie Meadows site, which sits at around 4,000 feet and is monitored by the USDA, had around 25 inches of snow on the ground during the week of June 20. This entirely melted by June 28.

Scott Pattee, water supply specialist with the Washington Snow Survey Office, said they have seen significant melting over the past few weeks because of heat.

“It kicked it in the butt and got it rolling off pretty quickly,” he said.

Several snowpacks had good levels of snow this year due to a cool dry spring. Snowpack generally peaks around April 1, and begins to melt off afterwards.

In the Snoqualmie River system, water levels are currently higher than normal, and had been for the past week, as of July 1. The Snoqualmie River system is a relatively low elevation system, and is reliant on water running down from the mountains. Even though there isn’t that natural built-in snow storage, the groundwater supplies are amazing, Pattee said.

When snowpack begins melting, the groundwater reservoirs and soils absorb what they need first before the melted snow starts running into streams and rivers. As the season progresses, the stream flows start receding and water starts to be pulled from groundwater. This is what ideally maintains flows until the rainy fall season.

But a hot, dry summer could wreak havoc on the river system. The National Weather Service is projecting that Western Washington will likely see hotter temperatures this summer — and lower than normal precipitation. This is in line with how climate scientists are expecting climate change to impact the Snoqualmie Valley.

Warming temperatures in the summer will further reduce snowpack, and heavier rains in the winter could increase the severity or frequency of floods. King County has seen instances of this in recent years.

Pattee said it will likely be important to conserve water this summer.

“The more water we can keep in the streams, the less water we’ll pull from the groundwater supplies,” he said.

Some strategies to conserve water include not watering lawns every day, which isn’t necessary west of the Cascades. Washing cars frequently isn’t good for water conservation either. Residents can also upgrade their plumbing fixtures and look for water leaks to help save water.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@valleyrecord.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.valleyrecord.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

Seattle Children’s Hospital (Courtesy photo)
Seattle Children’s Hospital identifies racial disparities in infections, security response

The healthcare provider did not respond to multiple requests for data used to identify disparities.

Carpenters union members peacefully strike on Sept. 16 in downtown Bellevue (photo by Cameron Sheppard)
Carpenters union strike on pause after “illegal picketing activity”

Union spokesperson claims wildcat protestors harrassed and threatened violence.

t
Peter Rogoff to step down as Sound Transit CEO in 2022

Became CEO in 2016; search for replacement to begin

File photo/Sound Publishing
Ban on single-use plastic bags in WA begins Oct. 1

Shoppers will have the choice to pay for a reusable plastic or recycled paper bag.

Photos from Emma Artz Instagram page at https://www.instagram.com/emma__artz/?hl=en
Juanita HS student is one of the best downhill mountain bike racers in the world

Emma Artz represented the US in one of the most difficult bike races, placing in top-15.

file photo
Housing and finance insiders call for subsidized housing families can own, instead of rent

Advocates say increasing homeownership will strengthen the community, build intergenerational wealth

Screenshot taken from Rosa Parks Elementary School website.
Eastside school wins National Blue Ribbon honor

Rosa Parks Elementary School in Redmond is the only Washington school to win.

Matt Laase
Snoqualmie City Councilmember Matt Laase seeks re-election in Pos. 5 seat

Q&A: Laase talks about his priorities and plans if elected.

Photo courtesy of Tanya Lavoy
Tanya Lavoy.
Newcomer Tanya Lavoy seeks Pos. 5 seat on Snoqualmie City Council

Q&A: Lavoy discusses her priorities and plans if elected.

Most Read