Mage Skordhal (NRCS): ‘We still have a lot of season left, but it’s not a good start’

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From KUNC (Kirk Siegler):

“In the western states, about 75% of our water comes from the snowpack,” Skordhal says. “That’s a lot.”

So when the snowpack measured here at the headwaters of an arid region is at just over half of normal? It’s time to take notice. “We still have a lot of season left, but it’s not a good start,” Skordhal says…

[Northern Water] officials and their counterparts at other agencies in the region aren’t worried yet because last winter was so snowy. “But if this year lags, and next year lags, yeah, we can lose levels in our reservoirs and get a little concerned,” Strongin says. “A good portion of the 2000s was pretty rough on our storage.”

So it’s not a crisis yet if you’re in the water business.

New Mexico and Texas have a stake in watching the Colorado snowpack. Colorado’s deliveries under the Rio Grande Compact are determined by the snowpack each season. Here’s a report from KTSM.com. Here’s an excerpt:

Estimates of the size of the snow pack in the areas that flow into Rio Grande by the Bureau of Reclamation are for 86% of average snowmelt to flow into the Elephant Butte reservoir. But the actual amount that ends up in the reservoir could be much lower. Last year, the Bureau estimated 91% of normal water into the reservoir, but the percentage of normal runoff from the snowmelt ended up being only around 14%. Weather patterns last year produced many days of high winds that dried large amounts snow before it could flow into Elephant Butte. This year, long range forecasts for the spring season look very similar to last year, with warm and dry weather.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Discussing the link between rapid climate changes in the Arctic and weather patterns in mid-latitudes, [Jennifer Francis, with Rutgers University Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences] said her most recent research points to a direct link between changes over the Arctic and mid-latitude weather patterns driven by the jet stream. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as other parts of the Earth and essentially, that heat is changing air pressure gradients and reducing the speed of circumpolar winds. That leads to a greater amplification of the high pressure ridges and low pressure troughs in mid-latitudes. As those kinks in the atmospheric circulation grow more pronounced, it slows the progression of weather systems moving from west to east around the northern hemisphere, allowing weather systems to get stuck over certain regions.

Speaking to an audience of TV meteorologists, Francis called it the “revenge of the atmosphere,” then explained some of the recent changes in the Arctic. “When the ice was thick in the good old days … the variations we saw were caused by wind, moving the ice around a bit. The winds would change, the ice didn’t respond so much … now that it’s thinner, it moves around more,” she said.

Click through to this article about precipitation over the western U.S. from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. He’s running all the precip maps. Here’s an excerpt:

Much of the West, with the exception of a few pockets in Arizona and New Mexico, have been exceptionally dry so far this fall and early winter, with precipitation in California tracking toward all-time record low levels.

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