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Mt. Baker Sets World Snowfall Record


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Washington, D.C. Aug. 3 (AP by Randolph E. Schmid)–Americans sweltering in the summer heat may want to take a moment to imagine 95 feet of snow in the driveway.

That’s how much accumulated last winter at Mt. Baker, Wash., setting a seasonal snowfall record for the United States and the world, the National Climatic Data Center announced Monday.

The National Climate Extremes Committee said the 1998-99 snowfall at Mt. Baker totaled 1,140 inches.

That topped the previous record of 1,122 inches set at Mount Rainier, Wash., in the winter of 1971-1972, the data center reported.

While the extremes committee was concerned only with national records for the United States, the data center said this total also stands as a world record for a verifiable amount.

The record snowfall was measured at the Mt. Baker Ski Area, which made an unofficial claim on the record in May, announcing a total of 1,124 inches even though the snow season wasn’t over. Now the extremes committee has made the record official, at a higher total than the ski area originally announced.

The figure of 1,140 inches was accepted after study by the extremes committee, which included representatives of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the American Association of State Climatologists and a regional expert from the Western Regional Climate Center.

Snowfall can be difficult to measure accurately because it settles, melts and drifts from place to place.

The committee said the measurement met snowfall observation standards and practices prescribed by the National Weather Service, and was thus considered to be an accurate depiction of the amount 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.

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.

Heavy snow is common in the Northwest with regular winter storms coming ashore loaded with moisture from the Pacific Ocean. When that wet air meets the mountains and rises the moisture condenses into snow.

Last winter a moderately strong La Nina in the Pacific Ocean increased the stormy pattern, with a much higher frequency of wet and cold weather systems affecting especially the area from the Cascade Range westward.

Copyright (c) 1999 The Associated Press