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      Lightweight Snowpack: March 4

      The image on the right shows the forecast pattern from 21 runs of the GFS for March 20. It's a cold looking forecast pattern.

      A record low of 15 below zero occurred at the National Weather Service (NWS) near Negaunee on March 4, 1996. Clear skies and light winds led to ideal radiational cooling over the thick snow cover, which stood at 31 inches on the level. The winter of 1995-96 brought heavy snow, record cold and a very late spring to Upper Michigan.

      Ironically, NWS observers measured a deeper snow cover this morning (34 inches) than back in 1996. However, the snowpack in 1996 was much denser because of frequent, heavy snow throughout the winter. White Water Associates keeps track of water content for the hydroelectric operations of the Menominee River Basin. Their snow survey indicates a water content of 5.6 inches in the snow cover at their Peshekee River site. The whole point of this is that in 1996 at the same time, the water content of the snow was a hefty 12.5 inches. That??s the highest water content on record at the site. So this year, the water content is only 45 percent of the 1996 total. Over the long-term, water content of snow at Peshekee averages 7.8 inches at this time. So the 5.6-inch figure is only 72 percent of ??normal.?? There is a lot of snow on the ground, because it was so cold through the winter. However, there were no big Colorado storms like in the winter of 1996. These storms have the big totals as well as large water content.

      This current figure indicates that there??s little chance of spring flooding this year. It also does not bode well for stream flow or fire danger. Farther south away from the northern Snow Belt, water content is much closer to average. For instance, their Iron River site has a water content of 5.3 inches. This is 74 percent of the site??s 1996 total. While, just like farther north, there have been no big, wet storms, frequent small snowfalls plus very cold weather has kept virtually every snowflake intact.

      Melting will not occur anytime soon. While temperatures are moderating, mainly due to higher sun angle and longer days, the overall pattern is not forecast to change. The image above is the upper-air ensemble mean from the GFS forecast model. It still shows roughly the same pattern we??ve been in all winter??a trough from eastern Canada into the Great Lakes and northeastern U.S. This configuration of the upper air argues for continued below average temperatures well past mid-month.