Jackson Wyoming just experienced one of the coldest and snowiest Aprils in the last 100 years. It all began with a precipitous drop in temperatures, following a high temperature of 62 degrees on April 8th, 2022, four days later, the high on April 12th was only 26 degrees. That broke the record for the minimum high temperature for that date, which was 33 degrees, set 48 years ago, in 1974.
How Cold Was April
The average high temperature in April 2022 in the Town of Jackson was 44 degrees, that is eight degrees colder than the long-term average. The average low temperature was 22 degrees, or two degrees cooler than average.
The mean temperature for April 2022, the average of the monthly high and low temperatures, was 33 degrees. That is five degrees colder than the long-term average mean temperature in April, which is 38 degrees.
Combing through Jackson’s climate records, going back to 1922, there were only six other Aprils that recorded a colder mean temperature, the coldest of those was 29 degrees, back in 1928. Based on monthly mean temperatures, April 2022 would rank as the 7th coldest April in the last 100 years.
How Snowy Was April
From the official climate data for Jackson, of all the Aprils with complete records, there have only been three other Aprils that were snowier than this one, and those happened over 50 years ago.
April 2022 had 16 inches of snowfall recorded at the Jackson Climate Station. That was just shy of the total snowfall in April 1970 of 17 inches and the 18 inches that fell in April 1963. This April was 8 inches short of the all-time April snowfall record in town of 24 inches, from April of 1967.
The average snowfall in town in April is 4 inches. Last year, April 2021, only had 1.5 inches of snowfall.
It’s also worth noting that this April’s 16 inches of snowfall bested January 2022’s total of 15 inches and was also more than the total snowfall received in February and March of 2022 combined, which was 13 inches.
How Wet Was April
Total precipitation in town this April was 1.95 inches, which is 171-percent of the long-term average April precipitation of 1.14 inches. April 2022 would rank as the 13th wettest April in the last 100 years. That is not exactly headline worthy, but this April was a big improvement over last April’s precipitation, which was a measly 0.37 inches in April 2021.
April 1963 is the wettest April in the weather record books for Jackson, with 2.66 inches of precipitation. Second place was just a few years ago in 2019 when Jackson had 2.48 inches of precipitation in April.
Jackson’s total precipitation in town from October 1st, 2021, through April 30th, 2022, now stands at 9.08 inches, which is just a skosh above the long-term average precipitation during that seven month time period.
Mountain Snow and Water
If you are a powder skier, April was what we were hoping for all of January, February and March. Yes, the mountains got dumped on this April, which helped bring the Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) in the Snake River Basin up to 92-percent of normal on April 30th, 2022. At this same time last year, the SWE in the Snake River Basin was only at 65-percent of average.
The water year in the mountains begins on October 1st and SWE is the best indicator of how much water is stored in the snowpack. Typically, the numbers peak at the end of April, when the mountain snowpack begins to melt in earnest.
SWE and precipitation numbers outlined here are based on the averages on April 30th for the latest 30-year period, from 1991-2020.
Overall, the total precipitation, snow and rain combined, in the Snake River Basin from October 1st, 2021, through April 30th, 2022, was 87-percent of normal. Last year the precipitation total for the same time period was at 80-percent of normal.
The Philips Bench SnoTel site on Teton Pass, at the 8200-foot elevation, averages 28.4 inches of precipitation from October 1st through April 30th. This year the total was 26.4 inches or two inches less than average. Last year on April 30th, 2021, the season’s precipitation total was almost only 24.5 inches or 4 inches below average.
The bottom-line here is, we’re still a little below normal with our snowpack and water in the mountains going into May, but we are certainly ahead of where we were last year at this same time, thanks to April’s bountiful snow.
Jim is the chief meteorologist at mountainweather.com and has been forecasting the weather in Jackson Hole and the Teton Range for over 30 years.
To say we had a sub-par winter this year, might be an understatement. It started late, finished early, and wasn’t as snowy as you may have become accustomed to, especially if you’ve been around Jackson Hole the last seven years or so.
Rarely though do a few words tell the whole story. So, I’ll review the data and break down all the details for the winter season of 2021-22, to see how this winter compared to past years here in Jackson Hole.
Less Town Snow
Total snowfall from December 1st, 2021 to April 1st, 2022 was 54 inches. According to data from the Town of Jackson Climate Station. That was about 7 inches shy of the long-term average for the four-month period of 61 inches, or 89-percent of normal snowfall.
Snow that began late in December 2021 saved us this winter, accounting for 26 inches of the winter’s total snow. That was 9 inches more than the average December snowfall and the only month this winter that had above average snowfall in town.
Last winter, in 2020-21, town snowfall came in right at normal, with 61 inches. However, the two winters prior to that were quite snowy, with around 90 inches of snowfall in town in the winter of 2019-20 and 2018-19. You may recall that February of 2019 broke a record with 55 inches of snow in town. Compared to only 5 inches this February.
Town Precip more than Last Winter
The amount of water contained in this winter’s snowfall also came up short of the long-term averages. December through March 2021-22 total precipitation in town was 3.91 inches, compared to the long-term average of 5.39 inches, or 73-percent of our normal winter precipitation.
What surprised me though was that the previous winter had less water than we received this winter. Total precipitation for winter 2020-21 was only 3.78 inches.
Including precipitation from October and November 2021 brings Jackson’s total precipitation for the last six months up to 7.13 inches. That puts Jackson at 91-percent of the long-term average for October through March of 7.86 inches. Which is ahead of what we had for total precipitation in October-March 2020-21, which was only 6.38 inches.
Temps Up and Down
According to the monthly average temperatures at the Jackson Climate Station, December and March were both warmer than normal, but January and February were much colder than normal.
Looking at the mean monthly temperatures, December 2021 was 8 degrees warmer than normal; January 2022 was 7.5 degrees colder than normal; February 2022 was almost 6 degrees colder than normal; and March 2022 was 2.5 degrees warmer than normal in town.
If you take the average of the mean temperatures for the four months, then the Winter of 2021-22 ended up at 19 degrees, which is one degree colder than the long-term average mean temperature for December through March of 20 degrees.
Jackson had a total of 45 days between December 1st, 2021, and March 31st, 2022, with low temperatures at or below zero. Forty of those days occurred in January and February. The coldest day of the winter was January 29th, 2022, with a low of minus 21 degrees.
The previous winter, 2020-21, we had 46 days with low temperatures at or below zero in town, and the coldest day was also minus 21 degrees, on December 29th, 2020.
Mountain Snow was Down
At Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s Rendezvous Bowl weather station, at around the 9,600-foot elevation, the total snowfall from December 1st, 2021, to April 1st, 2022, was 241. The long-term average snowfall for that four-month period is 307 inches. December 2021 alone accounted for 112 of those 241 inches and was also the only month this winter that had above average snowfall.
In the bigger picture, the total season snowfall on the mountain, from October 1st, 2021, to April 1st, 2022, was 321 inches. That is 82-percent of the historic average snowfall for that time period, which is 392 inches.
Compared to the previous winter, when the mountain received 100 inches more than average, with a grand total of 493 inches from October 1st, 2020 to April 1st, 2021, or 126-percent of normal. Including the memorable 172 inches of powder that fell in the mountains in February of 2021.
This past winter was the first below average snowfall winter that we have seen on the mountain in the last seven years. The last time we had a winter with below average mountain snowfall was in 2014-15. That winter had less snow than this winter, from October 1st to April 1st, 2014-15, the total snowfall was only 297 inches.
There have actually been eight winters in the last 47 years at JHMR with less snowfall than this one, including the driest winter ever, 1976-77, which only had 188 inches of total snowfall.
So, count your blessings, as my mother always says. Maybe this winter didn’t live up to the dream winters we have experienced over the last decade or so, but there is always next year! And let’s pray that this winter was a one-off.
Jim is the chief meteorologist at mountainweather.com and has been forecasting the weather in Jackson Hole and the Teton Range for over 30 years.
Portions of this post first appeared in the Jackson Hole News and Guide, on April 6th.
Spring officially began in the Northern Hemisphere back on March 20th, the Vernal Equinox. This marks the moment in time when the sun was directly overhead at the Equator, providing 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness for most of our planet.
Our Seasons are tied to the tilt of the earth and our orientation to the sun, as Earth makes its annual 365-day trip around the sun. That trip and that orientation do not change very much. What does change throughout the year is the length of our day, and bi-annually, our clocks.
Standard to Daylight Time
A week prior to the Vernal Equinox, on March 13th, 2022, we changed from Mountain Standard Time (MST) to Mountain Daylight Time (MDT), more universally referred to as Daylight Saving Time. We will go back to standard time again on November 6th, 2022, for roughly 4.5 months during the winter season.
It sounds like next March will be the last time we make that bi-annual switch. Starting in the spring of 2023 the entire United States will stay on Daylight Saving Time, year-round. That is courtesy of the United States Senate, which unanimously passed the Sunlight Protection Act on March 16th, 2022.
This bill was introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, whose state lies mostly south of 30-degrees North Latitude. Which, as you’ll see, will be minimally affected by this change.
This bill still must be approved by Congress, we just don’t know when that might come up in front of them for a vote.
This didn’t make big news, but here is how it will affect us here in Jackson, and elsewhere, with a little history on Standard Time vs. Daylight Saving Time.
Spring Ahead and Fall Back
We have a long and confusing history behind the use of Daylight Saving Time, or DST. The old adage, “spring ahead and fall back” has been ingrained in most everyone’s head, at least since the use of DST was brought permanently into law in 1966 with the passing of the Uniform Time Act.
Originally, DST was in effect for 7 months, beginning on the first Sunday in April and ending on the last Sunday in October. In 2005 Congress extended DST to run from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November.
DST doesn’t change the length of day, but it does shift the clock so that we are utilizing the daylight hours to their best possible advantage. We really noticed that extra hour of darkness we got in the mornings this month, after the change to DST. Although, by mid-April we’ll be back to where we left off, with sunrise times that will be the same as what we had here in Jackson during the second week of March, when it was still standard time.
Switching to DST for the summer months provides us more daylight later in the day, ostensibly so we can be out doing things later into the evening hours. Things like playing baseball, softball and soccer, or hiking, biking and sitting on the porch reading a newspaper. Instead of spending those evening hours indoors with lights burning and televisions blaring.
The drawback is, without the usual fallback to standard time during the winter months, we’ll see an extra hour of darkness in the mornings.
If we remained on standard time all summer here in Jackson, at Latitude 43-degrees North, we would see the sun rising at 4:42 AM in mid-June, an hour earlier than we currently have under Daylight Saving Time. That’s probably way too early for most folks to get out of bed.
Although, it would allow time to get out for a hike, bike or a run early in the day, before work, when temps are cooler. Instead of waiting until the end of the day, when it’s hotter.
Under standard time, during the shortest days of the year in late December, official sunrise here in Jackson occurs around 7:56 AM. Under Daylight Saving Time the sun won’t be up until 8:56 AM.
That will make our mornings feel like we live in Alaska. It will mean, waiting for the school bus in the dark, waiting in lift-lines for the ski area to open, in the dark. And for backcountry skiers and snowboarders on Teton Pass, “dawn patrols” will become entirely pre-dawn patrols.
On the other end of the day, during the shortest days of the winter, sunset will happen an hour later. Instead of going down before 5:00 PM, it will be going down a little before 6:00 PM. Which could mean getting home before it is dark.
Perhaps as we adapt to that change of light in winter, we’ll adjust the opening times for schools, ski areas and local businesses forward one hour in winter. We’ll see.
DST Not Universal
The seasonal time changes that we’ve been accustomed to are most effective for those of us living between about 35- and 55-Degrees North Latitude, roughly between southern Utah and Southern Canada. Far northern latitudes are less affected because it is light for so long in summer and dark so long in winter, so standard or daylight time makes little difference.
In more southern latitudes, the length of day is more consistent throughout the year and is similar to what we see here in Jackson around the Equinoxes. In the U.S., Hawaii and most of Arizona currently stay on standard time all year long. Next year, I suppose those states will switch to using DST all year.
Globally, the majority of countries use standard time all year. Less than 40% of the of the world makes a change to Daylight Saving Time. Of those countries that make the change to DST, many of them have different start and stop dates, further adding to the time confusion.
As recently as March of 2019 some European nations have proposed eliminating Daylight Saving Time and sticking with standard time, all year long. So, if you are a world traveler, keeping track of the local time could get even more challenging in the future.
The reality for most of us is, we’ll probably get used to the change in time. After a few years of year-round Daylight Saving Time, it will probably all seem pretty normal.
Personally, it would make way more sense to me, especially for those of us who live in-between 35 and 55 degrees North Latitude – or most of the Continental United States – to just stay on standard time all year. If you can’t deal with changing back and forth between standard and daylight time twice a year.
Jim is the chief meteorologist at mountainweather.com and has forecast the weather in Jackson Hole for the over 30 years. Portions of this article first appearedin teh Jakson Hole News & Guide.