Snowpack news: Green (average) dominates central and northern basins, Rio Grande drops = 65%


From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dave Buchanan):

Despite late-staying, unseasonably warm temperatures and almost no precipitation to remark of through the end of October, the statewide snowpack reached 99 percent of median as of Jan. 1, according to Brian Domonkos, Snow Survey Supervisor for the National Resources Conservation Service.

“The statewide snowpack is right where it needs to be for this time of year,” Domonkos said this week in the monthly snow survey report issued by the conservation service. “It’s difficult to make up an early deficit in snow accumulation, so being right at normal is a great place to be.”

The big boost came shortly before Christmas when a series of large storms swept across the state. Some ski resorts reported receiving close to three feet of new snow during one weekend storm cycle.

It has moderated a bit since then, but snow reports this week consistently are claiming midway bases in the high 
20-inch to mid 30-inch range and more.

According to Colorado Ski Country USA, the top five resorts as of Friday were: Wolf Creek, 45-inch base; Copper Mountain, 44; Winter Park, 41; Telluride, 40; and Steamboat, 39.

As has been the rule over the past few years, the snowpack is divided, with the northern and Interstate 70 resorts benefitting from weather patterns and the southwest quadrant seeing the least snow.

The Upper Rio Grande and San Juan river basins are at 71 and 75 percent, respectively, of median.

The National Resources Conservation Service reports these river basins have not received a normal seasonal snowpack since 2010.

The shortfall in runoff in these basins is being felt as far away as Albuquerque, New Mexico, where, according to a story in the Albuquerque Journal, the San Juan-Chama Project, which diverts water from southwest Colorado and sends it via transmountain tunnels to central New Mexico, had the first shortfall this year in its 40-year history.

The water is part of the amount guaranteed to New Mexico in the Colorado River Compact of 1922.

The story, by Journal staff writer John Fleck, said three consecutive years of low snowpack have caused Heron Reservoir in the Rio Chama Basin to nearly run dry, and photos show a slip of water meandering past the New Mexico Sailing Club’s marina.

Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico, pull San-Juan Chama water from the Rio Grande for their local water supplies.

The story can be found on the website for the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University.

The state’s other major river basins are reporting much better conditions, ranging from 114 percent of median in the Colorado River Basin to 99 percent of median in the Gunnison Basin.

The South Platte River Basin east of the Continental Divide is reporting 112 percent of median.

From The Mountain Mail:

Statewide snow accumulation is off to a near normal start, the Natural Resources Conservation Service reported Thursday.

Snowpack in the Arkansas River Basin is above normal at 114 percent of the median.

Precipitation for December was 101 percent of average, which brings year-to-date precipitation to 105 percent of average.

At 99 percent of normal statewide on Jan. 1, Colorado’s snowpack is at exactly the same level as seen in 2001 and close to the totals recorded in 1995 and 2014.

The snowpack in the Arkansas River Basin is currently ranked 11th of the 35-year period of record.
Statewide snowpack totals range from 47 percent of normal in the Alamosa Creek drainage to 146 percent in the Upper Arkansas Basin.

Reservoir storage at the end of December was 79 percent of average compared to 59 percent last year. Current streamflow forecasts range from 119 percent of average for Chalk Creek near Nathrop to 82 percent of average for the Cucharas River near La Veta.

Statewide reservoir storage is only slightly above normal through Jan. 1 at 103 percent of average. The Arkansas and Upper Rio Grande basins are the only two watersheds with storage totals below 80 percent of average.

Each major watershed has better storage than last year at the same time. The Arkansas’ combined reservoir storage is 20 percent higher than last year at this time.

From The Greeley Tribune (Kayla Young):

Snowpack in Colorado’s northern and eastern basins were at a healthy level this week, said Boulder-based meteorologist Robert Glancy of the National Weather Service.

Snow precipitation levels for the North and South Platte were at 101 and 109 percent of average, respectively, according to the most recent Colorado SNOTEL data.

If similar conditions persist, the basins will be in for good moisture levels come springtime, the meteorologist reported.

Broken down into a water equivalent, the South Platte River Basin index stood at 111 percent of the median, while the Laramie and North Platte River basin index was at 99 percent.

Snowpack above 150 percent of average places the basin at greater risk of flooding during runoff season, Glancy said.

In southwestern Colorado, hit by fewer winter storms so far than the north, basin snowpack ranged from 70 to 85 percent of average. The snow-water equivalent in the region ranged from 67 to 71 percent of the median, according to Colorado SNOTEL.

“The season is still young, so this could turn around,” Glancy said.

The winter season has yet to reach the halfway mark, set at Feb. 1, so there is still plenty of time for conditions to improve, he explained.

As for upcoming changes, Glancy said no serious storms were on the radar for the southern basins. If snowpack remains low in the south, it could mean dry conditions later in the year.

For the northern mountains, more snowfall was expected for early next week.

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