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Low July snow unfortunate, not unprecedented

Ben Domensino, Thursday July 2, 2020 - 10:58 EST

The alps have entered July with around one third of their average natural snow cover up high and no snow on some lower slopes. But while this is an unfortunate start to the month, it's not unheard of for this early in the season.

Image: False-colour satellite image showing snow-cover (red) in Australia's alps on June 29th. Source: NASA Worldview.

On the first day of July, the natural snow depth at Spencers Creek in NSW, which sits at 1830m elevation, was 21.6cm. This is about one third of the site's long-term average depth for the beginning of July and the lowest depth for this point in the season since 2017.

In Victoria, Mount Hotham reported 0cm of natural snow on the ground on 1st July and 3cm this morning. According to their records, today's 3cm is the latest date to register a depth this low since 1997 and well below the long term average of 45cm for 2nd July.

While the snow conditions this far into winter could be better, they have been worse in previous years. 

Mount Hotham's historical data shows that 1997 had 0cm of natural snow cover on 7th July. In NSW, Spencers Creek only had 4.5cm of snow on the ground on 9th July, 2015 and just 9.9cm on 24th July, 1959.

Image: Natural snow depths at Spencers Creek, NSW in 2015 and 2020. Source: Snowy Hydro

Looking ahead, a pair of cold fronts will bring some much-needed snow to the alps during the next three days. Cold air will spread over the mountains between Thursday and Saturday, delivering around 10-20cm of snow to most ski resorts. Some areas may see closer to 30cm all up by the end of the week.

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