Snow returned to Mount Rainier with a vengeance this week. The current avalanche hazard is HIGH to EXTREME. Since January 26th, Paradise has received 52 inches of new snowfall; the base is at 161 inches (as of this morning). A cumulative total for this winter hovers around 437 inches!
The recent snowfall has been associated with a fair amount of wind and cool temperatures. Temperatures have been averaging in the upper teens, while the winds have come from the west and southwest averaging 5-15 mph with gusts to 40-45 mph daily. There is a break in the front now (Wednesday afternoon) but the weather service is predicting heavy snow tonight through Thursday.
Harzard: The avalanche danger in the Paradise area is currently forecasted as HIGH by the Northwest Avalanche Center. The danger is likely to increase through Friday morning, particularly in exposed alpine areas.
Snowpack and precipitation: The new snowfall is overlying a variety of surface crusts and surface hoar from the mid-January dry spell. Also, there are layers within the snowpack that appear weak and unstable. Temperatures are predicted to increase slightly over the next couple of days, which means higher density snow over lighter density snow.
Weather: Another 2-3 feet of snow is forecasted to fall at Paradise by Friday morning with snow levels near 2000 feet or below. Snow showers are likely through the weekend but with lower intensity (we'll see!)
If you plan to do ANY backcountry travel in the park over the next week, be very aware and cautious of the snow conditions and use extreme caution. As always, refer to Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center for the most up-to-date conditions and forecasts. This report was compiled from NWAC forecasts and observations.
~ Chris Olson and Mike Gauthier