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Western Regional Climate Center

Desert Research Institute, Reno, NV
Dr. Kelly T Redmond
December 15, 1998


Summary of Major Climate Events During 1998, Western United States

Some of this material is extracted from Western Drought Coordination Council quarterly reports prepared by the Monitoring, Assessment and Prediction Working Group, an activity of the Western Governors Association.

These are ordered more or less chronologically, although some events span many months and are summarized toward their end or decline.


January

The year 1998 began with a major El Nino underway. In the West, as in the rest of the U.S., most of the effects of El Nino are seen during the winter half of the year. They consist of the following typical responses: wetter, cooler and snowier than usual in the Southwest and southern California; drier and warmer than usual in the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies; wetter than usual along the southern shore of mainland Alaska, and drier than usual in Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific Islands.

During the last week of December 1997, a stronger than usual jet stream became established west of the Pacific shoreline. During January Medford OR experienced 22 days of precipitation, surpassing the 1919 record for the month.

On January 2, Glasgow MT finally fell below zero for the first time in the winter, the latest ever. Usually this has happened 12 times by this date. The winter ended with 16 such days, compared with an average of 37. Figure 1 depicts the daily temperatures and long term means at Billings starting with the previous winter and extending through mid December 1998. With the exception of a few cold spells, the winter was very mild across the northern tier of states.

Billings, Montana Temperature Max and Mean Graph
Figure 1
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Rainy Hilo, in Hawaii, reported the driest month in its history, with 0.14" of precipitation, 1% of the 9.90" average.


February

An extremely fast jet stream averaging more than 200 miles an hour brought a succession of powerful storms to California, with heavy rains, high winds, flooding, high surf, landslides, and heavy mountain snows. Early in the month, a research aircraft in the CalJet experiment reported a wind speed measurement just west of San Francisco at 40,000 feet of about 285 miles per hour, probably the fastest speed ever recorded in the earth's troposphere.

On February 2nd and 3rd, just as doubt was beginning to surface in southern California about the reality of El Nino's consequences, the first of a month-long succession of dramatic and impressive storms paid a visit, with high winds, intense rain, heavy mountain snows, and high surf. Embedded in the fast flow, storms followed closely and quickly on each other's heels, for most of the remainder of the month, leaving little time for recovery. Almost no part of the state escaped unaffected. Although storms cannot be individually ascribed to its presence, El Nino certainly played a prominent role in setting the stage as an "enabling factor" for the unfolding sequence of events.

Many locations from the San Francisco Bay area southward set February and/or any-month precipitation records, including: UCLA (20.51", wettest month ever), Bakersfield (5.36" wettest Feb), Mojave (6.70", wettest Feb, 615 percent of average), Edwards Air Force Base (5.88", wettest month, 42 years), UC Riverside (9.49", wettest month), Santa Maria 11.59" (wettest month), Los Angeles Civic Center (13.79", wettest Feb), Oxnard 17.80" (wettest month), Ventura Downtown (18.91", wettest month, 132 years), Santa Barbara (21.74", wettest month, 132 years), Lompoc (12.86", wettest month), San Francisco (14.88", wettest Feb, 148 years of records, 508 % of average, old record 12.52" in 1878), and Lake Lagunitas (second to 1891, record starts 1879). Monthly totals reached 36.37" at Cazadero in Sonoma County, with automated mountain gages north of Los Angeles reporting February totals up to 43 inches (likely to be slight underestimates). In Santa Clara County, Ben Lomond recorded 19.7" in the first 8 days of the month, and by February 20, many locations had already set monthly records. Major episodes included the 3rd-6th, 8th-11th, 17th-19th, and 23rd-24th.

North of about Hopland on the Russian River, the constant rains of January and February were spread out well enough that no serious flooding ensued. Eureka reported 13.95", (295%, its third wettest February), with February totals in Crescent City of 19.85" (238%), Orleans 15.26" (223%), and Hayfork 15.36" (312%). The Eight-Station Index for February totaled 20.9" (284%), and the total from Oct 1 through Mar 2 stood at 57.2" (163% for the season-to-date, and 115% of the long-term average for the entire year).

Many California stations received more than eight times their usual February totals.

The rains were not only heavy but persistent. Eureka recorded 26 days with measureable rain in January, and another 26 days in February. San Francisco counted 24 in January and 22 in February. Blue Canyon had 21 and then 25, with 12 and 10 days respectively exceeding one inch. The lack of any significant letup in rains allowed almost no days for drying. Each period of heavy rain sent more earth sliding to lower elevations at a number of locations in the central and south part of the state. Wet soils above and wave action below eroded oceanfront property the length of the state, with many homes endangered and some lost.

Heavy snows brought the snowpack from near (and even below) average in late January to well above in late February, with snowpack as percent of average for the date in the Tahoe / Carson / Walker area increasing from 82-108% of average at month start to 140-152% at month end for February. Overall on March 1 in the Sierra Nevada, snowpack stood at 185 percent of average (north) to 140 percent (central) to 165 percent (south), for a statewide average of 165 percent. Alpine Meadows Ski Area (Tahoe Basin) recorded its snowiest February with 186", just 2 inches shy of the snowiest month on record, and a seasonal accumulation of 396" (annual average is 350"). By late in the month, Mount Shasta Ski Area reported over 200" of snow on the ground.

The vigorous storms caused high winds throughout the month up and down the state. On the 2nd gusts to 92 and 100 mph were measured at two oil platforms near Santa Barbara, to 86 at Lompoc and 90 at Hearst Castle, and to 81 in southern Oregon at Cape Blanco. Again on the 7th, winds reached 81 at Cape Blanco, to 62 near Ashland OR, 65 at The Presidio, and to 125 mph at Mt Diablo at 11:20 am on the 7th. Gusts reached 74 north of Weed and 83 at Cape Blanco on the 10th, to 79 there on the 18th, and to 98 numerous times, on the 20th. Sierra winds were relatively quiet all month, reaching 100 mph only once all month on the crest in the Tahoe area.

The combination of high winds, heavy surf, intense rains, eroding beaches, sliding earth, washed out roads and bridges, swift current, hail, lightning, and even tornadoes led to a great many inconveniences, considerable property damage, many injuries, and a number of deaths.

Shasta Dam in northern California recorded measureable precipitatiion on all but two of the 59 days of January and February, and on every single day from Jan 7 through Feb 24. These 49 consecutive days exceeded the previous record of 20 days at this site, and the apparent state record of 38 consecutive days at Gasquet Ranger Station in February/March 1983.

Additional details and figures are given in a report prepared for California's FEMA disaster application.

Near month's end, an incredible snowstorm dropped 103" of snow near Lead, in the Black Hills of SD, in just a few days.

Aided by its fourth greatest snowstorm, 19.4" on February 24-25, Salt Lake City UT recorded its wettest February with 4.89", breaking the 1936 record by 1.67". Las Vegas NV likewise noted its wettest February with 2.89", topping the 2.52" 1993 record. Tucson's 3.20" came in second to the 4.15" recorded there in February 1905. Juneau AK had its second wettest February, but both Juneau and McGrath AK, each with 0.5", set records for least February snowfall.

Again, Hawaii lay between the active convection of El Nino and the high-speed jet. Hilo recorded 2.40", 23% of average, Honolulu had 0.21", 10% of average, and several Maui sites had 1-10% of average. Pahala on the Big Island received 1.15" for December-January-February, compared with an average of 19.20".


March

As February changed to March, California received a reprieve (although other southwestern locations continued to receive heavy precipitation). Nonetheless, by month's end, parts of the southern Cascades and northern Sierra had received more than seven feet of liquid-equivalent precipitation since the start of the year. Ely NV, with 1.22", 127%, occurring in just three days, noted its wettest March day ever, with 1.02". Albuquerque had its wettest March, with 2.25", in 106 years, and on the 16th exceeded any previous day in December, January, February, or March. Further north, much of Montana ended up with near- to above-normal precipitation in March, reducing concerns about dryness. In Alaska, Kodiak had its wettest March, with 12.73".

Although trade showers did increase, Hawaii remained much below normal, with Hilo totaling 3.67", 25% of normal. Honolulu noted just 0.03" in March, the third driest March since 1874, and 1.01" in the last three months (also the third driest January-March period), compared with an average of 8.00". On the dry side of Maui, Kihei has had 1.83" in the last eight months, compared with an average of 13.50". Of 73 sites, 63 had less than 50% of their March average, and 35 of these had less than 25% of average.

Effects of drought were being experienced in Hawaii, especially the Big Island. Macademia production dropped, and brush fires burned 2500 acres. Farther west, on Guam, 900 fires burned 10,000 acres by the end of March. Water consumption was reduced to 4 gallons per person per day in the Marshall Islands at Majuro, and just 1 gallon at Ebeye.

The opposite problems were noted in the Southwest. California reported numerous problems from standing water, especially damaged vegetation. The state weathered an extremely active and sopping wet February, the wettest ever in some locations. Fields were difficult or impossible to reach, insect treatment was impaired, and forage growth was slowed by excessive water, cool temperatures, and lack of sunshine. Dairy herds were stressed in some places, with production drops, and pollination was adversely affected. March brought opportunities for recovery, although fungus and disease remained threats.


April

April 1 marks the usual end of the main snowfall accumulation season for much of the West, and is an important date for assessing potential summer water supplies. Figure 2 shows the winter precipitation for October-March 1997-98, and Figure 3 shows the snowpack conditions as of this date. The West began the summer with very good water supplies (Figure 4), and ended the year in generally good condition as well.

Seasonal Precipitation, October-March 1998
Figure 2
Mountain Snowpack as of April 1, 1998
Figure 3

Reservoir Storage as of April 1, 1998
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Figure 4

For the six months ending April 1, June Lake (near Mt St Helens) recorded 146.7" of precipitation, or 123 percent of average, and through the middle of summer had 165" of precipitation, about 108 percent of average (Figure 5).

June Lake, Washington Snotel Site
Figure 5
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The month of April brought above normal precipitation to most of the West.

Temperatures were much above normal across the north, and much cooler than normal across the south. Portland OR recorded its earliest 90 degree day on the last day. Meanwhile Flagstaff AZ recorded its third coldest April.


May

New Mexico reported its driest April-June period on record.

Sogginess prevailed west of a rough line from San Diego to Great Falls. In Oregon, particularly the east side, there were 64 locations that set May records, many of them 50 percent higher than the previous records. A number of sites measured from 400-650 percent of average. The past seven Mays have been well above average in precipitation in the northern Great Basin. Figure 6 shows May precipitation for a representative climate division in eastern Oregon for the past 104 years. This wet area extended into southern Idaho, northern Nevada, and nearly all of California, where 400-800 percent of normal amounts were common.

South Central Division, Oregon Preciptiation in Inches
Figure 6
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By mid-May, Bakersfield CA had already recorded its wettest year on record, exceeding the 11.17" measured in 1938.

In keeping with the wet, cloudy conditions in the far west, temperatures were very cool, near record levels, which delayed agricultural schedules. Temperature departures were greatest in California, as much as 10 degrees F below average. Bakersfield, during its coldest May, only reached 84, and Fresno, 85. The only other years on record in which those cities have not reached 90 in May were 1917 and 1961. Because of both the cool temperatures and heavy precipitation, snowpack in the Sierra Nevada was late in melting, and actually increased in many places. Austin, Nevada recorded 10" of snow on the 26th-27th.

In Hawaii, Hilo finally had a wet month, with 15.65" of rain, (158% of average), but other locations remained dry, such as Honolulu, with 2.99" in 7 months (17% of average).


June

Arizona remained very dry (usual) and New Mexico also saw almost no rain in June (unusual).

Precipitation began to fall over many of the dry areas that had developed in Montana. Glasgow caught 4.11" (195% of average), Billings, 3.63" (182%), and Missoula in the west saw 4.23" (238%). Many remote elevated sites in western Montana captured 5-7", and some were greater: Flattop Mtn Snotel near Glacier Park recorded 8.9" (compared with an average of 5.9"), Shower Falls near Bozeman had 10.8" (5.3" average) and Crystal Lake had 11.8" (4.9" average). In late June a heavy shower dumped more than 9" in 36 hours on a campground north of the Bearpaw Mountains south of Great Falls. Billings began the month with 19 wet days out of 20. The May-June period represents a kind of "second chance" to pick up missed winter precipitation in the northern Rockies, and this year that occurred in abundance. However, many farmers had already given up and plowed fields under or adopted other strategies.

Earlier in the year, dry spring conditions following on the heels of a dry and mild winter had led some Montana farmers to give in and plow crops under, or switch to other alternatives. May and June rains were generous in some places, even excessive; but dry pockets still existed. Lack of adequate (spatially dense) observations needed for documentation held up relief. Seeded winter wheat acreage was the smallest in the state since 1941.

Much of Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and again California were also significantly wet. At 3.84", Salt Lake City exceeded its June precipitation record by 31 percent, and exceeded the record for any summer month (June-August). On the strength of a late-season 1.88" downpour on June 6-7, Fresno set a new June mark of 1.93" (monthly average 0.08"). Reno had at least a trace the first 13 days, and 11 days of measureable rain (former record 9 in 62 years, average is 3), with a total of 1.39" (302%).

Figure 7 shows the Standardized Precipitation Index for April-May-June of 1998. Areas above +2 or below -2 occur only about 5 percent of the record. Figure 8 shows the percent of average precipitation for April-June.

3 month SPI through the end of June 1998
Figure 7
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Percent of Normal Precipitation April 1-June 30 1998
Figure 8

Once again, a very cool month was experienced from Montana to California. Billings, for example, had its coldest June. Frost visited the northern Great Plains in early June, with Williston reaching 26, its fourth coldest June reading. Salt Lake City noted its second coldest June, with its latest 90-degree reading on the 30th. Snow, some quite heavy, was recorded at relatively low elevations in the region, and again Sierra snowmelt was only a trickle. Reno did not reach 90 until July 5, a week short of the latest ever.

Figure 9 shows the departure of temperatures from average for the three months April-June for the United States.

Departure of Temperatures from Average for April-June in the United States
Figure 9

The twelve months that ended June 30 in California yielded some very impressive statistics. Downtown San Francisco, with a 149-year record from 1849, measured 47.22" of precipitation, falling just shy of the venerable 49.27" total of 1861-62, when an enormous flood put one quarter of California's assessed value under water. Sacramento's 103 days with measureable rain, and UCLA's 63 both exceeded July through June records set in 1982-83. San Francisco likewise notched a record 119 days with measureable rain, far surpassing the 1889-90 record of 107.

Some season-ending precipitation totals for winter 1997-1998 in California.

   Location       	7/1/97-6/30/98    average  % of average   Bakersfield            	14.66"      5.72"     256%   Eureka                 	58.62"     37.53"     156%   Fresno                 	20.36"     10.60"     192%   Oakland                	46.72"     21.79"     214%   Redding                	65.61"     33.30"     197%   Sacramento             	32.25"     18.61"     173%   San Francisco Airport  	40.06"     19.70"     203%   San Francisco downtown 	47.22"     20.52"     230%   San Jose               	28.89"     14.42"     200%   Santa Rose             	53.90"     30.30"     178%   Los Angeles            	31.01"     14.77"     210%   San Diego              	17.78"      9.90"     180%   Northern California   Eight-Station Index for the   Sacramento River Basin  	80.8"      48.3"      167% 

Even Death Valley reported nearly 6 inches of rain over the past 12 months, compared with an average of just over 2" (Figure 10). A spectacular and profuse display of flowers erupted during the spring in this location and in many other desert locations in southern California and Nevada and in Arizona, to the delight of many visitors.

Death Valley Precipitation
Figure 10
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Cotton was especially impacted in California, but for just the opposite reason as in Texas. The extended wet season, which proceeded into the first week of June, caused a number of problems with disease and insects, and with growth conditions. Cotton was generally three to four weeks behind. Mold, mildew, fungus, and rot affected waterlogged fields. Stonefruits had less than optimal conditions also, and many vegetable crops fell two to three weeks behind in the Sacramento Valley. During this quarter, lettuce prices rose prohibitively, four to five fold, but later returned.

Having just finished dealing with El Nino, climate observers watched during June as La Nina put in a dramatically sudden appearance early in the month, and appeared destined to dominate the next winter's headlines.


July

July was generally near to above normal in precipitation throughout the western states, except for seasonally dry California and southwest Oregon. However, on the west side of the Cascades, an extended dry period began in July. Far to the west, all of the Hawaiian Islands received below average precipitation.

A developing dry pocket in southeast Colorado was washed away in extremely heavy rainfall. Lamar noted 11.34", nearly three-quarters of its 14.62" annual average, much above its monthly average of 2.24", and the highest by more than 2" since at least 1918. This wet area extended northward to western Montana, and the interior Columbia Basin received 400 percent of average and more.

In the far West, after a very cool June and first half of July, the western summer abruptly shifted into a very warm mode. This transition is easily visible in daily temperature records from Bakersfield (Figure 11), and Yosemite Valley (Figure 12).

Bakersfield WSO ARPT, California Temperature Max and Mean
Figure 11
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Yosemite Park HDQTRS, California Temperature Max and Mean
Figure 12
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The warming brought a reading of 129 F to Death Valley on July 17, the hottest temperature at a North American station in 38 years, and tying the highest for at least the past 50 years. Death Valley reach 120 on 25 days, double the average of 12, but well short of the record 40 set in 1996; this number of 120-degree days occurs about once in 10 years. Figure 13 shows "Death Valley Days" for calendar 1998 through December 13, along with long-term averages and extremes from the current site for each day.

Death Valley, California Temperature Max and Mean
Figure 13
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The warmup in July finally raised the freezing level to begin melting the enormous Sierra snowpack, which had hung on much later into the summer than usual. Figure 14 shows a visible satellite image of the Sierra Nevada taken on July 25, 1998. The white dendritic pattern shows very deep snow lingering on ridgetops. An NRCS Snotel sensor at a medium altitude of 9400 feet at Leavitt Lake just north of Yosemite (Figure 15) shows that the snowpack not only failed to begin melting near the normal early April maximum, but even continued to accumulate long afterward, peaking at 91 inches (nearly 8 feet) of water in the snowpack on the first of June, a time when the average water content is typically 35 inches. The melt began in earnest, and levels had dropped to 60 inches by July 1, and to zero by August 1. Whitewater rafting enthusiasts were treated to an extra element of fun and danger, in very swift, cold and powerful water. A dozen rafters, some quite experienced, drowned in the Sierra, tying the worst year on record.

Visible Satellite Image of the Sierra Nevada
Figure 14
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Leavitt Lake, California Snow Water Content
Figure 15
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August

August was very dry west of the longitude of the Nevada-Utah border, which is seasonal and not especially unusual. Hawaiian precipitation was generally below average, although Lihue on Kauai was wet.

Nome AK recorded its wettest month ever with 8.58", surpassing the 7.82" total of July 1951. Their total of over 25" through mid December surpasses the previous annual record of 22.38" set in 1990.


September

New Mexico had a dry September, and seasonal dryness prevailed along nearly the entire Pacific Coast. A lesser dry spot developed in western Wyoming and Montana. Eugene, Oregon ended an 83-day spell of no measureable rain on September 17, the longest since record-keeping began in 1890.

In Hawaii, Honolulu noted just 0.05" of rain in September, 0.73" less than average. For the calendar year through October 10, Honolulu received only 2.66", 17 percent of the historic average for that period. Similarly Kahului, with 3.66", has accumulated a mere 23 percent of average since January 1.

September was very wet for the lower Colorado River, and most of Arizona, the entire Great Basin, most of Utah and Idaho, and much of Wyoming. Numerous locations had more than 400 percent of the September average, some among the wettest on record, partly on the strength decaying of tropical storms. Remnants of Isis brought rains to the desert on September 4, including 2.26" in 24 hours at Yuma, more than seven times its September mean, and a significant fraction of its 3.17" annual average.

Going into the new winter, reservoir storage was above average in all the western states except Washington, which was not significantly below average.

Large parts of New Mexico experienced especially dry conditions from April through June of 1998. Drought damages may exceed $60 million, with almost 6,000 farms and ranches affected, including 1,100 with losses exceeding 80%.

Low soil moisture levels significantly reduced the harvested acres of crops, although many crop yields were higher, which partly ameliorated the losses. Some of the losses included:

 Sorghum:        Harvested acres down 66% from last year (yields up but                 total bushels down 54%) Upland cotton:  Harvested acres down 11% from last year (yields up and                 total bushels up 3%) Summer potato:  Harvested acres down 9% from last year (yields down and                 total bushels down 13%) Peanuts:        Harvested acres up 16% from last year (yields down 7% and                 total bushels up 7%) 

Septmber 30 marks the end of the Water Year, used by many western water interests to track hydrological elements of the climate system. This year ended up especially notable in the Sierra Nevada. This was the fourth consecutive substantially wetter than average winter season, something not observed before in the long records from the central Sierra near Lake Tahoe. The past two decades have brought an astonishing range of precipitation behavior to this area. At Tahoe City, the outlet of Lake Tahoe, this memorable period includes the driest winter (12-month season) on record (1976-77), the wettest winter (1982-83), an extended major drought (1986/87 to 1993/94 with 1992/93 excepted), the driest four-year period on record (1975/76-1978/79), and the wettest four-year period on record (1994/95-1997-98).


October

Wet weather continued in New Mexico, with eastern portions receiving upwards of 400 percent of average. Also, eastern Montana and Wyoming received over 400 percent of average. Glasgow MT, for example, reported 3.05", much above the October record of 1.80" in 1994. A broad swath from the eastern plains of Montana southward to Arizona and New Mexico received generally 200 percent of average or more.

Wet conditions affected southern Alaska, with Juneau at 12.33" (157 percent), partly because of its greatest 2-day total on record, 6.28" on the 19th-20th. Kodiak noted 13.96", with its annual total up to 93.12" (169%).

Honolulu continued to resist liquid moisture, receiving only 0.13" (6%), for an annual total of 2.28" (15 percent of average). Meanwhile, its rainy counterpart to the south, Hilo, measured 16.01" (167 percent).

Temperatures were cool over most of the western states. Bakersfield averaged 62.7 F, (departure -5.1), the coolest October since 1984, and the ninth of the past ten months to be cooler than normal there (Figure 16). Alaska was near average, with the notable exception of the North Slope, where Barrow ended the month 12 degrees F above average.

Bakesfield WSO ARPT, California Temperature Max and Mean
Figure 16
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November

La Nina helped kick the precipitation season into high gear in the Pacific Northwest. Astoria's 19.60" (195%) exceeded the former November record set in 1995, and Seattle's 11.62" (199%) exceeded its 1990 November record, and was the wettest month at that airport since 1979. Medford ended the month with 7.67", second highest in the 87 year record to the 8.62" recorded in 1942. Brookings OR, on the far south coast of Oregon, reported 25.03" (218%), its third highest November total behind the 26.01" that fell in 1973 (also a La Nina year). Other Oregon totals from the coastal mountains included 35.35" at Laurel Mountain (average is 17.97"), 27.19" at Elk River Hatchery (average 18.75"), and 28.17 at Nehalem 9 NNE (average 17.77"). A little further down the coast, Eureka had 14.09" (219%).

Again, Hilo picked up copious precipitation, with 15.57" (107%), and once again Honolulu mustered just 0.85" for an 11-month total of merely 3.37", or 18 percent of average. Figure 17 shows accumulated precipitation for the last year in Honolulu, compared with the long term average.

Honolulu WB Airport 703, Hawaii Acc. Precipitation
Figure 17
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Figure 18 shows the precipitation for October-November combined, in terms of the relative rank since 1895. Similarly, Figure 19 shows the same statistic for the first 11 months of 1998. For the year to date, parts of the West are in their wettest few percent in the past 104 years.

2 Month Precipitation Percentile (non-exceedance) through the end of November 1998
Figure 18
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11 Month Precipitation Percentile (non-exceedance) through the end of November 1998
Figure 19
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Crater Lake ramped up its snowfall season with 137" of white material, compared with a November average of 69.1". The 148" so far compares with an average to date of 95.3', but still well short of the winter-long average of 495 inches. Snowfall for 1998-99 is off to a good start in the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies. Figure 20 shows the snow water content at Mount Rainier Paradise last year and so far this year. Figure 21 shows the deficient season last winter near Glacier Park MT and the relatively good start for winter 1998-99.

Paradise, Washington Snow Water Content
Figure 20
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Flattop Mountain, Montana Snow Water Content
Figure 21
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For a second consecutive month, extreme North Slope temperatures occurred, with monthly averages of 16 F above normal in Barrow, while the remainder of the state was near average. In fact, the record for the entire year at this site is most remarkable (Figure 22), with extended periods far above normal temperatures during much of 1998.

Barrow WSO Airport, Alaska Temperature Max and Mean
Figure 22
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Strong winds occurred on November 23. Salem OR reported gusts to 68 mph, and gusts reached 70-80 mph at many places along the Oregon coast. Highest gusts topped 100 mph along the north coast. This very powerful storm remained far enough offshore to avoid destructively high speeds on land. Ocean waves with this storm were reported to have reached heights of 45 feet.

On the same day prolonged high winds affected Reno NV. The Western Regional Climate Center's rooftop sensor recorded 28 separate 10-minute periods with gusts exceeding 70 mph, 7 periods exceeding 80 mph, and a peak gust of 89.6 mph. The recurrence interval for such winds is approximately 5-10 years.


December

Through December 12, 80,000 wildland fires had been reported, burning 2.3 million acres. The year 1998 is generally regarded as an unusually lackluster fire year.

The winter is off to a fast start for snowpack accumulation in the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies, and a relatively slow start for Arizona.


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