Snowpack news: Statewide = 131% of average

Mage at the NRCS was really busy yesterday. Click on the thumbnails to see the current snowpack graphs and statewide map.

NOAA: How do snowflakes form?

Photo via Snowflakes Bentley (Wilson A. Bentley)
Photo via Snowflakes Bentley (Wilson A. Bentley)

From NOAA:

Q: How are snowflakes formed?

A: A snowflake begins to form when an extremely cold water droplet freezes onto a pollen or dust particle in the sky. This creates an ice crystal. As the ice crystal falls to the ground, water vapor freezes onto the primary crystal, building new crystals – the six arms of the snowflake.

That’s the short answer.

The more complex explanation is this:

These ice crystals that make up snowflakes are symmetrical (or patterned) because they reflect the internal order of the crystal’s water molecules as they arrange themselves in predetermined spaces (known as “crystallization”) to form a six-sided snowflake.

Ultimately, it is the temperature at which a crystal forms — and to a lesser extent the humidity of the air — that determines the basic shape of the ice crystal. Thus, we see long needle-like crystals at 23 degrees F and very flat plate-like crystals at 5 degrees F.

The intricate shape of a single arm of the snowflake is determined by the atmospheric conditions experienced by entire ice crystal as it falls. A crystal might begin to grow arms in one manner, and then minutes or even seconds later, slight changes in the surrounding temperature or humidity causes the crystal to grow in another way. Although the six-sided shape is always maintained, the ice crystal (and its six arms) may branch off in new directions. Because each arm experiences the same atmospheric conditions, the arms look identical.

Q: So, why are no two snowflakes exactly alike?

A: Well, that’s because individual snowflakes all follow slightly different paths from the sky to the ground —and thus encounter slightly different atmospheric conditions along the way. Therefore, they all tend to look unique, resembling everything from prisms and needles to the familiar lacy pattern.

The latest climate briefing from the Western Water Assessment is hot off the presses

Statewide SWE as a percent of normal December 7, 2013
Statewide SWE as a percent of normal December 7, 2013

Click here to go to the WWA dashboard. Scroll down for the array of graphics and the current assessment. Here’s an excerpt:


A major storm on a southerly track in late November led to much-above-average monthly precipitation for southeastern and west-central Utah and western and south-central Colorado.

Snowpacks are above normal across nearly all of the three-state region, with the wettest basins (>140% of median) in northern Wyoming, southern Utah, and the southern half of Colorado, and the driest basins (80–100% of median) in northern and central Utah and far southwestern Wyoming.

The NOAA CPC climate outlooks show a wet tilt for Wyoming over the next three months, with a slight dry tilt for southern Colorado and Utah for late winter (January–March). The NOAA PSD ‘SWcast’ is more pessimistic, showing a dry tilt for most of Colorado and Utah for late winter.

NOAA: #ColoradoRiver Basin Forecast Discussion

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Today is Colorado Gives Day

Search by "water" results from Colorado Gives Day website
Search by “water” results from Colorado Gives Day website

Click here to give until you hurt. From the website:

Today is Colorado Gives Day! Last year, Coloradans made an astonishing show of support for local nonprofits by donating $15.4 million in just 24 hours. A total of $15.7 million was distributed to the nonprofits, thanks to additional contributions from the FirstBank Incentive Fund and 36 cash prizes. Let’s see what we can do on Colorado Gives Day 2013!

When: 24 hours starting at 12 a.m. on Tuesday, December 10, 2013
How: Donate online through this website
Why: To support the nonprofits that protect and nurture quality of life in Colorado

Republican River Basin: Special Master William Kayatta, Jr. reduces Nebraska’s damages to $5.5 million

Republican River Basin
Republican River Basin

Here’s a report the Imperial Republican (Russ Pankonin) via The Yuma Pioneer. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Last Friday’s report by Special Master William Kayatta, Jr. gave Nebraska the upper hand in a dispute between Kansas and Nebraska that dates back to 2010.

“The decision could have only been $5.5 million better,” said Upper Republican Manager Jasper Fanning. Kayatta said Kansas was entitled to damages of $5.5 million versus the $80 million they had sought.

Fanning said the only way the report could have been more favorable for Nebraska was if Kansas hadn’t gotten any damages at all, he noted. Fanning said the reduction in damages was important. But even bigger was a change in the accounting process that ultimately determines how much water is available to Nebraska, he added. That will be worth many times more over the years than the $5.5 million Nebraska will have to pay Kansas, Fanning said.

In addition to the accounting change, Kayatta said Nebraska should not be charged for evaporation that occurred from Harlan County reservoir in 2006.

These two rulings will gain the basin from 16,000 to 18,000 acre feet towards water use calculations for 2007.

In addition, the accounting change will result in additional water supply annually, Fanning said. That additional water will be a boost in helping Nebraska stay in compliance with the 2002 settlement agreement reached with Kansas over basin water supplies, he added.

More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.

A 1000 Year Rain – Commemorative Edition will be available at the Estes Park Trail Gazette today