CARIBOU, Maine — Fluctuating temperatures and rain in the last month or so have left Aroostook County and the western mountains of Maine with less snow than typical for this time of year, according to state geologists.
Caribou, for instance, has had 20 inches less snowfall to date than normal for this time of year.
The state typically sees more snow west and north, according to Robert Johnston, senior geologist with the Maine Geological Survey, which conducted its first measure of the snowpack throughout the state on Monday and Tuesday.
“There’s no deep snowpack yet, and that is due to the fact we’ve had only coastal storms so far,” Johnston said. “The fine conditions at Maine’s ski areas at this point in the season are a tribute to the snow makers.”
What snow there is on the ground across the state, however, has a higher water content than at this time last year, he said.
“The fluctuating temperatures, along with some rain, have caused a fair amount of melting,” Johnston said. “The melted snow has turned to ice that is locked up in the snowpack.”
Maine Cooperative Snow Survey team members went to 75 locations around the state this week to take the first snowpack measurement.
The highest snow readings found this week were at Greenville-Greenville Junction with a snow depth of 14.6 inches and water content of 4.3 inches, Johnston said. That site was followed by Churchill Dam on the Allagash, with 12.9 inches of snow and 2.8 inches of water content.
Low spots in the state were at Mount Abram High School in Salem Township and Kingfield, with just a trace of snow measured, Johnston said.
The snowpack survey is conducted several times each year to help forecast spring flooding, according to Dr. Robert Marvinney, director of the Maine Geological Survey. The data are shared with the Maine Emergency Management Agency and county emergency officials and also among Maine hydroelectric companies so they know how much water to hold or release.
The next survey will be done in early February, with more extensive weekly surveys done at 140 sites in March and April. The last survey will be in early May.
The snowpack in Maine accumulates through the winter with the maximum depth and water content occurring typically sometime in March.
Meanwhile, Rich Norton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Caribou, said Friday that parts of Aroostook County and southern Maine are seeing below-normal amounts of snowfall.
In Caribou, 23.1 inches of snow has fallen since July 1. The normal is 43½ inches, so the region is 20.4 inches below normal. In Portland, 12.4 inches has fallen so far. The normal is 20.7 inches.
In Bangor, however, where the norm is 21.2 inches of snow, 23.3 inches has fallen so far.
“So Bangor is slightly above normal,” Norton explained. “The rest of the state is below normal in terms of snowfall as well, but not much.”
He noted that warmer weather has helped melt existing snow, and Aroostook County has dodged heavy snowfall so far this year.
Snow survey information is available online at: www.maine.gov/rfac/rfac_snow.shtml.