Snowpack in the Washington Cascades is now 60-70 percent of normal, which is raising some concerns about the upcoming wildfire season.  

But National Weather Service Meteorologist Charlotte Dewey says studies show no direct correlation between the level of snowpack and the severity of wildfires. 

"The more direct relation tends to be how quickly we warm up late in the spring and early in the summer, like May through June, and how quickly we can dry out those fine fuels at the surface and evaporate any last lingering snowpack that's there," said Dewey. 

Snow levels have varied by wide margins throughout the winter because of rainfall in between colder weather that brought snow. 

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A high mark was recorded on Jan. 10 when the Washington snowpack was 75-to-90 percent of normal. 

By Jan. 15 the level was 67-to-75 percent of normal, and on Jan.25 it was 75-to-85 percent of normal, according to the weather service. 

Dewey says there just hasn’t been enough constant cold weather and storms to sustain a consistent snowpack with the El Niño winter currently in place. 

The southern Cascades in central and southern Oregon are showing snow levels closer to 100 percent of normal. 

Dewey says a factor that could affect the fire season is the current El Niño pattern changing to La Niña conditions late this spring. 

"We have almost an 80 percent chance of that transition taking place," Dewey said. "And then we have over a 50 percent chance of those La Niña conditions developing this summer, and so that could drive more towards drier summertime conditions and potentially a bad fire season." 

If the La Niña pattern remains through next winter, it could lead to heavier than normal snowfall in the cascades, although there’s no projection this far out by the weather service. 

Washington Snow Forecast: February-March

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