Snowpack news: What a difference a week makes for southeastern Colorado #COdrought

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Snow that began overnight Thursday and continued through Tuesday has significantly improved Colorado’s snowpack outlook. Last week at this time, water watchers were looking at the skies trying to determine where this year’s supply would come from. Snowpack charts appeared to be flatlining for a third consecutive year. This week, state snowpack totals in most of the state’s basins improved to above average — an encouraging sign that may not mean much if March and April fail to produce.

The Arkansas River basin is at 114 percent of median, while the Upper Colorado River basin, which provides supplemental water for the Arkansas Valley, is at 121 percent. The Rio Grande basin remains the driest in the state with just 82 percent of average.

Snow data from the Natural Resource Conservation Service Snotel sites shows a foot or more of moisture in the snowpack of many of its sites at higher elevations in both the Arkansas and Colorado basins.

Snow totals since Friday range from 3-9 inches in Pueblo County to about 2 feet in Lake County near Leadville, according to Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network weather spotters. Tuesday’s snow even left 2-4 inches east of Pueblo in Otero and Prowers counties.

Ski areas report higher accumulations since the weekend, with 16 inches added to a 100-inch base at Wolf Creek; 6 inches, 82-inch base at Monarch; and 2 inches, 72-inch base at Ski Cooper.

That should translate into more water supply, at least in the short-term. At the end of January, winter water storage was almost 70,000 acre-feet, just 85 percent of average. However, it was 50 percent better than at the same time last year.

From Aspen Public Radio (Marci Krivonen):

The massive winter storm that blanketed our region last week brought more than just smiles to skiers, it delivered needed moisture to the snowpack. Colorado’s mountains store water used for crops, in homes and for recreation so, it’s important to have a good supply. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen spoke with the Roaring Fork Conservancy’s Sarah Johnson. (Click through to listen to the interview.)

From The Greeley Tribune:

anuary in Greeley was a wet one. Greeley received 9.7 inches of snow, which is 3.4 inches above normal, and recorded the 11th snowiest January on record, according to numbers provided by the Colorado Climate Center. That snow in January resulted in 1.06 inches of precipitation — 0.58 inches above normal, and making it the fourth-wettest January on record.

From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Kremmling Field Office snow surveyors Mark Volt and Noah Bates took the February 1 snow survey measurements during the last days of January. The readings were taken before the Jan. 30-31 snowstorm that dumped 1-2 feet of snow in the mountains.

Snowpack in the high-elevation mountains above Middle Park is now around 120 percent of the 30-year average.

It’s still early in the season but we are doing good. Last year’s snowpack at this time was only 73 percent of average.

Snow density is averaging 24 percent, which means that for a foot of snow there are 2.9 inches of water. Lower depth of the snowpack is very granular, which is responsible for the weak snow stability.

Most of the snow courses around Middle Park have been read since the 1940s. Snow course readings are taken at the end of each month, beginning in January and continuing through April. March is historically the snowiest month, and the April 1 readings are the most critical for predicting runoff and summer water supplies, as most of our high country snowpack peaks around that time.

From (Bill Folsom):

So far this year snow is driving away drought in much of Colorado.
“We have a much more positive outlook going into 2014 than we had last year,” said Colorado Springs Utilities, Water Supply Planning Supervisor, Abby Ortega.

The national drought map now shows most of Colorado under “abnormally dry” conditions. It is an upgrade of several levels, from the “extreme drought” designation across most of the state last year.

There is optimism among water managers, but also caution. Snowpack is deeper than the 30 year average, but Ortega points out that this is just the start of the snow season. She says March and April are typically the months when the most significant moisture falls in Colorado. She also says we are still in a water deficit. “We’re certainly optimistic. We’re looking at the snowpack but in addition we need to keep in mind that after the last two years of dry conditions our reservoir storage is well below normal.”

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