Snowpack news: Lower Colorado River basin states eye the low snowpack in the Rockies with concern


Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the snowpack map from last Friday. The beautiful snow over the weekend is not reflected in the map.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

A wet Pacific storm delivered widespread snow across the entire state, with many ski areas reporting more than a foot of snow, including 17 inches at Crested Butte, 16 inches at Telluride and six to 10 inches at the resorts along the I-70 corridor.

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal (Henry Brean):

One year removed from near-record snow levels that sent 4 trillion gallons of much-needed meltwater into Lake Mead, winter has gotten off to a terrible start in the mountains that feed the Colorado River. Conditions are so dry that water supply forecasters have slashed their projections for Lake Mead by a whopping 2.45 million acre-feet in the past month alone. That’s 24 vertical feet of water gone — poof! — from what had been a promising forecast for the valley’s primary source of water…

Randy Julander summed up this year’s snowpack in two words: “It stinks.” From his office in Salt Lake City, Julander supervises the federal snow survey program in Nevada, Utah and California for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The measurements collected by Julander’s team are used to predict floods and forecast the water supplies for farms and cities across the West. January is a month that “typically puts down a lot of snow,” Julander said, but conditions so far across much of the West have been “drier than the Sahara Desert.” “And December was even worse,” he said. “The whole upper Colorado River basin is in really terrible shape in terms of snowpack.”[…]

Julander said this winter so far ranks as one of the worst on record, but it’s still not quite as bad as 1977, the so-called “year without snow.”[…]

Based on current conditions, forecasters now expect roughly 5 million acre-feet of water to flow into Lake Powell over the entire season. Last year, the reservoir on the Utah-Arizona border collected more water than that in June alone…

A series of winter storms is expected to sweep across the region over the next week or so. With any luck, the weather will turn cold and wet and stay that way for a while, Julander said. “As we say in this business, every day without snow is just another stinking day of sunshine.”

From Steamboat Today (Matt Stensland):

“Where you have mountains, you have a lot more micro climates than you have in the flat terrain like the Midwest,” said Jim Pringle, a National Weather Service meteorologist. Gratz said Steamboat Springs in particular is one of the more challenging areas to forecast for…

There are two major factors for predicting storm totals at Steamboat, Gratz said. The first is the wind direction. Steamboat is favored by storms that produce a wind coming from the west and northwest, Gratz said. To produce large amounts of snow, you need wind to hit the mountain directly and force air into the atmosphere…

The second big factor in producing big snow totals at the ski area is whether there is cold air trapped in the valley.

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