Mike Gillespie retires from the NRCS leaving behind a legacy of reliable water data collection

Manual collection of snowpack data

Here’s a profile of Gillespie from John Ingold writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

“It’s pretty evident that this is one of the drier years,” Gillespie said. “It’s not looking like a good start at all to the year.”

Gillespie, who started doing snow surveys in Wyoming 31 years ago, has the experience to know. But Thursday was the last survey he will do. As of the end of today, Gillespie is retired.

That is a substantial loss of institutional knowledge in the obscure but important world of Colorado snowpack analysis. Gillespie’s snowpack measurements are closely watched by Colorado water managers, who use them to determine how much water will be available in the spring and summer.

Gillespie said his analyses can predict the amount of water in the spring runoff within about 10 percent.

Every year, Gillespie has overseen an effort to manually measure snowpack at more than 100 high-altitude “snow courses” across the state. He also has been instrumental in expanding the state’s use of automated snowpack sensors, which now number about 110 and provide daily snowpack updates…

Nolan Doesken, the state climatologist, said Gillespie brought a sense of competence to the high stakes of water-supply prediction and an aura of calmness to often panicky meetings about drought or flooding. “He was just always steady and reliable,” Doesken said. “You could always count on the data.”

I’ve heard Mike’s presentations on snowpack many times over the years. I’ll miss his sharp wit and steady focus on framing and interpreting the data his team collects.

Mike says, in email today, “On to bigger, and hopefully better, things.”

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