Despite storms, Juneau snowfall is still average

Posted: Monday, February 11, 2008

February's nonstop storms might make it seem like Juneau is headed for another record snow year, but snowfall is close to average so far this winter.

A four-day storm at the beginning of the month brought more than 20 inches of snow to the National Weather Service station at Juneau International Airport. This means some residential areas likely received the usual dose of snow for the entire month in just the first few days of February.

An average 18.4 inches of snow falls in February, according to the weather service, whose data at the airport site goes back to 1943. As of Sunday afternoon, 31.9 inches of snow had fallen already this month.

Despite the recent weather, snowfall for the season is on par with an average year.

Just less than 72 inches of snow have fallen so far this winter, compared to a historical average of 70.5 inches for the same time period.

"We're a whole inch and a half above normal," forecaster Brian Bezenek said Sunday afternoon.

Last year, when continuous winter storms broke Juneau's weather records, 117.5 inches of snow had fallen by this time in the season.

However, colder than normal temperatures so far in February might be helping to increase snowfall at Eaglecrest Ski Area, where the snowpack does compare to last season.

The ski area reported 154 inches on top Sunday. That's 7 inches shy of last year's 161-inch base, said general manager Kirk Duncan. And the base area has more snow now than last season. A 70-inch base was reported Sunday, compared to 61 inches last year on the same date.

Cold temperatures can produce more snow out of the same amount of liquid, Bezenek said, and February's temperatures up until Sunday have been cold - an average 12 degrees compared to a historical monthly average of 28 degrees.

The snow also will be dry or contain less moisture content, Bezenek said.

That creates the kind of "powder" skiing conditions Duncan likes to see. The dry, light snow lured twice the average number of skiers to the slopes Sunday, he said.

"All I care about is having enough snow," Duncan said, when asked if he thought the area might be headed for another record year.

Last year's record hit 231 inches on March 17.

The weather service maintains the long-term forecast it issued earlier in the winter, predicting normal to slightly cooler than average temperatures with normal precipitation.

• Contact reporter Kim Marquisat 523-2279 or by e-mail at kim.marquis@juneauempire.com.





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