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MT. BAKER HOLDS SNOWFALL RECORD, NOAA REPORTS
August 2, 1999 It's officialMt.
Baker, Wash., has set a new record for the most snowfall ever
measured in the United States in a single season, NOAA
The Mt. Baker Ski Area in northwestern Washington State reported
1,140 inches of snowfall for the 1998-99 snowfall season. The
figure was scrutinized by the National Climate Extremes Committee,
which is responsible for evaluating potential national record-setting
extreme events. The committee, composed of experts from NOAA,
the American Association of State Climatologists, and a regional
expert from the Western Regional Climate Center, made a unanimous
recommendation to the director of NOAA's
National Climatic Data Center to accept the figure.
"In accepting the validity of the 1,140 inches of snowfall
at Mt. Baker, the National Climatic Data Center recognizes that
a new record has been set," said Tom Karl, director of the
center. "The previous U.S. seasonal snowfall record was
1,122 inches, set during the 1971-1972 snowfall season at Mt.
Rainer/Paradise, a station located at 5,500 feet on the slopes
of Mt. Rainer, about 150 miles south of Mt. Baker."
Snowfall can be extremely difficult to measure accurately because
it settles, melts, and during times of wind, drifts from place
to place. The committee reports that the measurements met snowfall
observation standards and practices prescribed by the National
Weather Service, and were thus considered to be an accurate depiction
of snowfall amounts that fell.
"The measurement frequency was once a day; a flat surface
was used to measure daily snowfall amounts; and a snow stake
for snow depth measurement was also in place," said Raymond
Downs, an observations standards expert on the committee. "Both
snowfall and snow depth were measured in acceptable locations.
The bottom line is the observations were taken in a manner that
meets official observation standards."
Robert Leffler, team leader for the evaluation, said, "Committee
members voted to recognize the amount as a new U.S. record because
of several factors. These include acceptable snowfall measurement
methods, detailed record-keeping, and other corroborative evidence
such as independent snow data from other sources, eyewitness
accounts, and unusual damage to trees and structures resulting
from the crushing weight of the deep snow pack and avalanches."
The Mt. Baker Ski Area is located at an elevation of 4,200 feet,
nine miles northeast of the summit of the Mt. Baker volcano.
The snowfall season is for the period from July 1, 1998, through
June 30, 1999. The committee was concerned only with national
records for the United States. However, this total also stands
as a world record for a verifiable amount.
The heavy snowfalls normally experienced in the Cascade Mountains
of Washington State are the result of several factors. Winter
is naturally the wettest season as the west-to-east planetary
circulations expands southward and strengthens in speed, with
storms striking the Pacific Northwest every few days. Air laden
with moisture after its journey across the Pacific is forced
to ascent the Cascade Range, dropping abundant precipitation.
Freezing levels average about 4,000 feet over the winter months,
so that near this altitude snowfall amounts increase very rapidly
with just small increases in elevation. This season, a moderately
strong La Niña
pattern is credited with accentuating this stormy pattern, with
a much higher frequency of wet and cold weather systems affecting
especially the area from the Cascade Range westward. Freezing
levels remained abnormally consistently low throughout the winter.