Many eyes are starting to watch the early season snowpack #COdrought

Experimental forecasts from Klaus Wolter via the Colorado Climate Center
Experimental forecasts from Klaus Wolter via the Colorado Climate Center

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

So far this year, we’re getting off to a good start. On Oct. 29, all of western Colorado’s river basins registered at least 128% of the historical median amount of water held in the form of snow for that date. Underscoring the need to not take snowpack numbers too seriously at this time of year, however, is the fact that the same set of figures showed one river basin in southern Utah at over 2000% of the median for this date! Just one week before, the same basin showed no data.

As the water year wears on, the snow numbers will get less dramatic and start to tell us more about what to expect when next spring’s runoff begins. For now, you can learn more by looking at current hydrologic conditions and long-range weather forecasts.

October so far has been a good one for precipitation in the Upper Colorado River Basin. The only areas receiving significantly less than average are in southeastern Utah, but even that area received good moisture in September. These precipitation numbers are reflected in soil and vegetation moisture levels, which are normal-to-wet across most of the Upper Colorado River Basin.

Streamflows are not quite as good, with the Colorado River at 93% of normal near the Colorado-Utah state line, the Green River at 75% of normal at Green River, and the San Juan River near Bluff at 41% of normal for this time of year.

Reservoir levels continue to show the drought conditions the region experienced in 2012 and the first part of 2013. Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado’s largest, is 42% full; Lake Powell, the Upper Basin’s largest is 45% full, while Navajo and Flaming Gorge are doing a bit better at 56% full and 75% full, respectively. Reservoir levels in eastern Utah are significantly lower…

Klaus Wolter, a NOAA meteorologist based at the University of Colorado, has issued an experimental forecast showing above-average snowpack for most Colorado river basins on Jan. 1; but given that most of the region’s snow typically accumulates later on, even that doesn’t tell us much about what kind of water year to expect in 2014…

Two good websites for tracking a wide range of climate data are:

The National Integrated Drought Information System’s Upper Colorado Regional Drought Early Warning system, hosted by the Colorado Climate Center at http://climate.colostate.edu/~drought/

The Intermountain West Climate Dashboard maintained by Western Water Assessment at the University of Colorado http://wwa.colorado.edu/climate/dashboard.html.

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