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La Nina is saying goodbye, but it left this behind

Mount Rainier glaciers in motion

This 65-frame time lapse video comprises the 7:00 am view of the Emmons and Winthrop Glaciers from Wednesday, June 28, 2017 - Monday, September 11, 2017 from the Camp Schurman webcam. (Note: There are several frames missing)
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This 65-frame time lapse video comprises the 7:00 am view of the Emmons and Winthrop Glaciers from Wednesday, June 28, 2017 - Monday, September 11, 2017 from the Camp Schurman webcam. (Note: There are several frames missing)

Snowpack in Western Washington's North Puget Sound region, which includes Whatcom County, is well above normal, according to recent measurements.

That bodes well for industry, agriculture, wildlife and others in the Nooksack and Skagit river basins who depend on water from snowmelt, said Jay Albrecht, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle.

In addition, a weak La Nina pattern that brought a cold, wet winter to Whatcom County – including some lowland snow and a surprise late-December ice storm – is fading into more seasonable spring weather, Albrecht said.

"That beautiful, gorgeous day that we had Monday is kind of a taste of what you can get in a La Nina , the type of early spring we're getting right now," he said. "That pattern will pretty much continue with a few minor day-to-day fluctuations."

In other words, there's more where that came from.

There's a chance of showers Monday, with clear skies returning Tuesday.

Spring may have arrived early in the lowlands, but it's still winter in the mountains.

According to data from Natural Resources Conservation Service, the North Cascades snowpack has a snow water equivalent that is 115 percent of normal for the Nooksack River and 118 percent of normal for the Skagit River. In 2017, those figures were 88 percent for the Nooksack River and 94 percent for the Skagit River.

Snowfall measurements from the Mt. Baker Ski Area show 603 inches fell this season through Feb. 23, about double what Washington state ski resorts farther south were reporting.

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Mount Baker overlooking Bellingham Jan. 3, 2018. Staff Bellingham Herald file

"There's more snow on the ground, and the depth — especially at Baker — is doing extremely well," Albrecht said.

As spring approaches, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center shows a chance of lower than normal temperatures with precipitation at normal levels over the next month. After that, the center's three-month outlook shows an equal chance of seasonally normal temperatures and rainfall.

"That lines up with what we normally see at the tail end of a La Nina cycle," Albrecht said. He said the La Nina is transitioning into what meteorologists call a "neutral pattern" that usually means seasonal weather for the Northwest, he said.

Halfway through March, Bellingham has received 1.19 inches of rain, which is a little less than half the normal 3.22 inches for March.

Following a week of unseasonably warm weather, the average high temperatures in Bellingham for March are about normal at 52.3 degrees, but the monthly average low this month is 33.1, which is more than 3 degrees below the normal 36.4 degrees for this time of year.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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