Snowpack news: The Rio Grande basin is at approximately 86% of average

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Currently snowpack in the Rio Grande Basin (the Valley) is at [86] percent of normal according to Colorado Division of Water Resources Assistant Division Engineer Matt Hardesty who gave an update on water issues to the Rio Grande Roundtable on Tuesday. He said early snows in November and December brought the basin-wide snowpack to more than 100 percent in December, but the trend did not continue, so the snowpack is only [86] percent of normal at this time. He added that the 90-day forecast would not likely affect that percentage much, either. “We are in a weak La Niña they predict to last a couple of months so I don’t expect much difference,” Hardesty said.

On a brighter note, however, he said Colorado appears to have ended the 2011 year with a slight over delivery of Rio Grande Compact water to downstream states, “which is where we like to finish the year.” Both the Rio Grande and Conejos River systems appear to have over delivered to the compact by a slight margin, he said. He particularly commended the Conejos River water users for cooperating with the state water division in making sure compact obligations to downstream states were met.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Right now, for example, the buzz is about a shift in the storm track, which sometime next week is supposed to start moving across the country in a zonal west to east flow. Out in California, where they need the moisture even more than we do, there is some anticipation that the realigned storm track may start to deliver some moisture. Here’s the official word from the National Weather Service forecasters in Grand Junction:

“SIGNIFICANT HEMISPHERIC PATTERN CHANGE AS WE SAY GOOD RIDDANCE TO THE BLOCKING HIGH PRESSURE THAT HAS DOMINATED THE PATTERN FOR SEVERAL WEEKS. THIS DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN THAT WINTER STORMS WILL BECOME FREQUENT OVER THE WESTERN SLOPE…BUT DOES IMPROVE OUR CHANCES OF RECEIVING SOME MOUNTAIN SNOW DURING THE EXTENDED PERIOD.”

The reality is that this winter has on the cusp of being one of the warmest and driest in recent memory. Snow cover is only present across about 19 percent of the U.S. (excluding Alaska); normal for this time of year would be 50 percent. Last week, more than 1,000 locations set high temperature records. Bellingham, Wash.hit 60 degrees in the first week of the year and Fargo reached 44 degrees. In some regions of the Midwest temperatures are 40 degrees higher than average.

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