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NW Fishletter #366, February 6, 2017

[5] Water Supply Predictions For Columbia Basin Show North and South Divide

The Northwest River Forecast Center is currently forecasting normal to slightly below- normal water supply for the northern portion of the Columbia basin but normal to well above-normal water supply for the southern portion (and much of the Washington and Oregon Cascades).

The predictions align pretty closely with recent Snotel readings, showing lots of snow in southern tier of the basin and quite a bit less in the northern tier.

As of Feb. 2, water supply at The Dalles Dam is projected to be 94 percent of average. The early January prediction, as measured at The Dalles, was 100 percent of average. The Dalles serves as index for the Columbia basin.

The wet and cold conditions forecast for the next 10 days will help maintain and maybe even build snowpack.

"Snowpack in our region typically peaks on April 1--nearly 10 weeks away," Brad Bowlin, Idaho Power communication specialist, said in a news statement. Most of Idaho Power's hydroelectric generation occurs in the upper Snake in southern Idaho.

The caveat, Bowlin said, is how quickly the snow melts off in the springtime.

In 2016 above-normal temperatures led to very rapid snowmelt in April, resulting in below-normal runoff volume for water year 2016.

The basin may avoid those conditions in 2017 if the current 90-day forecast for above average precipitation and cool temperatures holds.

However, climatologist and NOAA blogger Emily Becker says the La Niña weather pattern that brings cooler and wet conditions is fading.

She also wrote on her blog that climate models are showing the possibility of El Niño-like conditions in the second half of year. -L. B.

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