Snowpack news: El Niño weakening

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Update: From the Aspen Daily News:

While the weather was still dry in Aspen around 8:30 a.m. Thursday, a “pretty miraculous” storm had moved into the Snowmass Village area, causing whiteout conditions, according to Snowmass Village police Sgt. Brian Olson. In the span of just a few hours, about a foot of new snow fell on Snowmass ski area, while Aspen Mountain saw only 5 inches, according to snow totals reported by Aspen Skiing Co. Thursday afternoon.

From the Longmont Times-Call:

[Don Graffis, a soil conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service] was part of a team that trekked up Longs Peak on Tuesday to measure the snowpack. They found that with 8.8 inches of moisture, the snowpack is at 81 percent of the 30-year average. Last month, it was at 78 percent, with 6.7 inches. “Last year at this time, we were at 8.6 inches of moisture,” Graffis said. “So we are very close to what we were seeing last year on this site.”[…]

At NRCS’ measuring site near Ward, the snowpack is 100 percent of the average, with 5.7 inches of water, he said.

From NBC11News.com (James Hopkins):

The snowpack is ten percent below average, with some basins in the north central mountains at 20 percent below average. This means stream flows are also expected to be low when rafters start heading out onto the water. “Some of the upper regions will have some challenges and maybe some shorter seasons,” says [Outfitter Tom] Kleinschnitz.

The El Nino winter has pushed the bulk of the snow to the southern parts of the state, favoring the San Juans, causing the Upper Colorado basin to fall short. “As a result the southern mountains are 100% while the northern mountains are around the 70–80% range,” says Meteorologist, Mike Chamberlain. The Green River, which feeds in to the Colorado is even further behind. “The upper and lower Green river is in the 50–60% range,” says Chamberlain…

Rivers in the southern part of the state are already flowing as normal. While Grand Junction is looking to see sunshine as early as tomorrow, the higher elevations, are expecting snow straight through to next Wednesday. “The northern mountains will do a little better out of this storm,”says Chamberlain. With some areas seeing accumulations of up to two feet. Which might not bring them back to normal, but every inch helps.

From The Greeley Tribune (Bill Jackson):

Todd Boldt, along with John Fusaro, conservationists with the Fort Collins office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, surveyed the April water content of the snowpack in the Poudre Canyon on Wednesday, after doing the same thing in the Big Thompson Canyon the day before. At the 10,276-foot summit at Cameron Pass, the content was 65 percent of the 30-year average and 61 percent of last year’s reading. “That’s not as bad as 2002, but it’s not good,” Fusaro said, referring to the middle of what turned out to be one of the worst droughts in history…

Even in those snowfields that showed above-average amounts, the density of the snow was considerably lower than is normally found at this time of year, which means the water content of that snowpack is not that good. That was particularly true in the Big Thompson Canyon.

Don Magnuson is the superintendent of the Cache la Poudre Irrigation and Reservoir Co., which supplies irrigation water to some 40,000 acres from near Windsor to east of Greeley and Eaton. He wasn’t happy with the latest snowpack numbers, but he emphasized the snowpack is just part of the big picture. “Reservoir storage is great, and that’s why they are there to help us through something like this. It’s yet to be seen how tight things get, and it may look real bad coming out of this in the fall. But right now, soil moisture is good, and if we don’t lose that we can get things started,” Magnuson said.

From the South Florida Sun Sentinel (Eliot Kleinberg):

At the [National Hurricane Conference] opening session Wednesday, National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read credited the quiet 2009 season to El Niño, the pattern of warm Pacific waters that tends to hinder tropical storm formation. But with the hurricane season set to start on June 1, El Niño is showing signs of weakening, which could mean more storms. Colorado State’s [Phil] Klotzbach told the conference that computer models suggest “El Niño, which is our friend and kept hurricane activity down last summer, will be gone by June or July.”

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Last month was the 18th warmest and 34th wettest March in Fort Collins in Colorado State University’s 122 years of recordkeeping, according to the Colorado Climate Center’s March monthly weather summary report. The city received 1.55 inches of wet precipitation, or 109 percent of normal. Total monthly snowfall was 13.1 inches last month, or 111 percent of normal.

From the Craig Daily Press (Nicole Inglis):

National Weather Service Forecaster Aldis Strautins said a Pacific cold front stalled [Thursday] over western Colorado, focusing the moisture over Craig and surrounding areas. Strautins said the mountains in Northwest Colorado could see more than 8 inches, however, after the cold front moves through, cool temperatures will make for lighter snow, easing the burden on power lines. The forecast for Easter weekend includes two more storms to pass through the area before Tuesday, bringing more precipitation and wind to Craig.

From Steamboat Today (Brent Boyer):

A winter storm warning is in effect until 6 a.m. Friday for the mountains surrounding Steamboat. A winter weather advisory will impact the valley’s lower elevations, including the city of Steamboat Springs. Between 8 and 14 inches of snow could fall in Steamboat, with higher amounts in the northern part of the county, including Clark. The total storm accumulation could reach 8 to 16 inches at the Steamboat Ski Area. The storm will be accompanied by winds of 15 to 25 mph, and gusts as high as 40 and 50 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

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