Mount Baker holds Snowfall Record
N.O.A.A. Makes It Official
Wednesday, August 25, 1999

Mounta Baker Snowbank
The Snowbank
photo: David Zamechek
It's official—Mt. Baker, Washington, has set a new record for the most snowfall ever measured in the United States in a single season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) reported today.

The Mt. Baker Ski Area in northwestern Washington 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.

Mount Baker Sets World Snowfall Record
Powder Still Falling at Washington Ski Area
Thursday, May 13, 1999

Mount Baker Ski area in Washington today reported it has unofficially broken the world's record for season snowfall. Two inches of new snow fell yesterday, May 12, bringing the total since July 1 to 1,124 inches, or 96.6 feet. The average snowfall at Baker is 615 inches, or 51.2 feet.

This the third record Mount Baker has broken this year.

The previous record of 1,122.5 inches of snowfall in a season was set at Mount Rainier's Paradise in the 1971-1972 season, which records snowfall at 5,420 feet. These nearly 97 feet of snow have fallen at Mount Baker since Nov.1, and were recorded at an elevation of 4300 feet. July 1 to June 30 is considered the official snowfall season.

Location Washington
Height 10,775ft./3,285m
Latitude 48.786 N
Longitude 121.82 W
Avg. Snowfall 615in./1,562cm
Ski Area
Vertical Rise
Ski Area
Mount Baker has also surpassed Rainier in snowfall recorded in a winter season, Nov. 1 until April 30. This winter season, Baker recorded 1,096 inches, or 91.3 feet to Rainier's 1,038 inches, or 86.5 feet. And for February, Mount Baker bested its own record for most snowfall in a month with 304 inches. Its previous record was set in December 1996 with 294 inches.

Bad news for the powderhounds, the Mount Baker ski area is closed for the season. This newest record will remain "unofficial" until evaluated by the National Climate Extremes Committee and an application review by the Guinness Book of World Records.

Mt. Baker Ski Area is located approximately 60 miles east of the Pacific Ocean coast in the Northern Cascades of Washington State.

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