A Rising River: 2013 River Forecast
The spring snowmelt (or “freshet”) causes rising high water levels in the Columbia River and its tributaries each year. This condition helps get salmon smolts downriver quickly, but also makes it dangerous for fishers. CRITFC monitors river conditions during the year and creates forecasts to inform fishers of the predicted timing and nature of the freshet. River flow will increase in late April, peak in late May (flow will be fastest during this time), then slowly recede through June.
We started the season with a brief El Niño event, which is a Pacific Ocean condition that gives the Pacific Northwest warm, dry winters and sour ocean conditions. We quickly transitioned to neutral conditions since last summer. However, this winter has been more like El Niño, with less snowpack and warmer temperatures. This means that the freshet will be slightly less than normal this spring, but still favorable for juvenile salmon migrating out to the ocean and for returning adults. Recent late winter storms have helped to restore the snowpacks. The March 19 NOAA-National Weather Service river spring-summer forecasts are at 92% of normal.
CRITFC generates its own forecast, predicting this year’s river flow will be 102% of normal. The NOAA forecast has moved toward the CRITFC forecast recently.
Snowpack accumulation is doing well in the Washington and North Oregon Cascades (110 – 175% of normal), near normal in the Canadian Rockies, but poor in Idaho and northeast Oregon (25 – 90% of normal).