Snowpack news: South Platte River Basin gains a bit against average

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Even with Friday’s snowstorm, the snowpack for the South Platte River Basin, which includes the Poudre River watershed, is 19 percent below normal, according to Natural Resources Conservation Service, or NRCS, data. That’s right in line with the well-below-normal snowpack in river basins north of Interstate 70, a product of a relatively dry winter.

Today, that all changes. A major snowstorm is targeting the Front Range, with between 3 to 6 inches on the way for the Interstate 25 urban corridor, said Don Day of DayWeather in Cheyenne. The National Weather Service on Monday afternoon issued a winter storm warning for Denver beginning at 3 p.m. today, calling for 5 to 10 inches of snow…

“We’re not on track for a very decent water year because we’re still a fair amount below average,” said Michael A. Gillespie, snow survey supervisor for the NRCS. “If we could repeat last year, in a nutshell, we’d be doing great. There might be some hope for that.” Klaus Wolter, a University of Colorado climate research scientist, said he expects the wet weather pattern to continue through May, though he won’t place any bets on a late spring similar to that of 2009, which produced “crazy” hailstorms and a plethora of cool, wet weather. The storms, he said, are a product of El Nino, which was also one of the main drivers behind last year’s frequent storms. But, Wolter said, it’s unusual to have two El Nino-driven wet springs in a row.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

After starting to weaken a bit in late January, this year’s El Niño was revived by a giant Kelvin wave sweeping warm water eastward across the Pacific in February. The surge of tropical water made this El Niño the fifth-strongest on record for this time of year, in a pattern expected to influencing Colorado’s weather for the next few months, according to climate researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association…

Kelvin waves are bumps of warm water in the Pacific that form around Indonesia. They are typically just a few inches high, hundreds of kilometers wide and a few degrees warmer than the surrounding water, according to Bill Patzert, an oceanographer with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Usually, prevailing easterly trade winds near the equator push sun-warmed water away from the Americas and toward Australia and Indonesia, where the globe’s biggest pool of warm ocean water forms. During El Niño, in a complex atmospheric dance, the trade winds falter, enabling pulses of warm water to slide back to the east. The waves can actually increase the height of tides along west-facing shorelines of North and South America by a few inches, as well as warm the water on those beaches.

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