National Snow & Ice - Annual 2017

The 2016/17 winter season (December 2016-February 2017) was marked by much-warmer-than-average conditions across much of the East with record warmth in the Southern Plains and Lower Mississippi Valley. Below-average temperatures were observed in the Northwest. January and particularly February were very warm in the East with 17 states from Texas to New York having a record warm February. Below-average temperatures were present for the Northwest during much of the winter. The winter season was wetter than average for much of the nation, particularly the West, Northern Plains and Midwest. Nevada and Wyoming were record wet and California had its second wettest winter helping to end a multi-year drought in the region. The above-average precipitation in the West boosted snowpack totals to record and near-record levels in parts of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The contiguous U.S. had an above-average snow cover extent in December and January with a below-average snow cover extent for February and into early spring. For the December-February three-month winter period. many locations in the eastern U.S. had near-record low snow totals, however, early spring snow helped to boost annual snow totals across the region.

US Winter snow extent anomalies
Contiguous U.S. Winter Snow Cover Extent Anomalies
Data Source: Rutgers Global Snow Lab

According to NOAA data analyzed by the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, for the winter season, the contiguous U.S. snow cover extent was 50,000 square miles above the 1981-2010 average and ranked near the middle of the 51-year period of record. The 2016/17 winter snow cover extent was slightly smaller than the snow cover extent of the previous winter season in 2015/16. Much of the snow that fell across the U.S. during the December-February period occurred across the western U.S. with much of the snow in the east falling in December. Record warmth across the East helped to melt the snow that accumulated earlier in the season. A mid-March winter storm impacted the Northeast, bringing blizzard conditions to parts of New England and New York. Snowfall totals exceeding 20 inches were widespread with localized totals in the higher elevations exceeding 30 inches. According to the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS), the storm was rated a Category '3', or major winter storm for the region.

Western US Snowpack 1 May 2017
Western U.S. Snowpack
April 1, 2017
Source: USDA

Winter and spring mountain snowpack provide a crucial water source across much of the western United States. The total annual water budget for agriculture and human use in the mountainous West is highly dependent on the amount of snow melt that will occur in spring and is proportional to the amount of snow on the ground. The annual snow pack typically peaks in early April. As of April 1st, as a result of late-winter storms in the Northwest and Northern Rockies and earlier-season snowfall to south, most mountain locations in the West had near- to above-average snowpack. Much-average-average snowpack was observed for the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the central and southern Cascades, and much of the Great Basin to Central Rockies. Parts of the Central Rockies and Sierra Nevada Mountains had a snowpack that was more than 180 percent of average, with several observing stations setting new records. According to the Western Regional Climate Center, the California statewide snowpack was 166 percent of average, the sixth highest since 1950 and highest since 1998. Locations from the northern Cascades to Northern Rockies had near-average snowpack. In Alaska, a dry March resulted in most locations across southern parts of the state to have below-average snowpack. Most of central Alaska had near- to above-average snowpack totals.

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Citing This Report

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, State of the Climate: National Snow & Ice for Annual 2017, published online January 2018, retrieved on October 19, 2018 from