Snowpack news: Another weekend, another upslope storm bumps up the South Platte Basin, Wet Mountains get 20″

Westwide SNOTEL snow water equivalent as a percent of normal February 22, 2015
Westwide SNOTEL snow water equivalent as a percent of normal February 22, 2015

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Sarah Jane Kyle):

As of Feb. 1, the Poudre basin was at 92 percent of the median, seeing a rise in snowpack levels during the first part of February while levels in much of the Colorado declined. The same time last year, the Poudre Basin’s snowpack was 112 percent.

But February, March and April are historically the snowiest months on the Poudre basin and will be the determining factors in how much snowmelt will be stored in reservoirs, run down the Poudre River and quench the thirst of forests and foothills.

Snowpack accounts for 50 to 80 percent of Colorado’s average annual water supply, says Colorado Snow Survey Supervisor Brian Domonkos, with USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS).

“(Snowpack) is a beautiful, low-cost reservoir that refills every year, but not in a consistent fashion,” State Climatologist Nolan Doesken said. “That’s the challenge. You never know for sure what you’re going to have from one year to the next.

“You need to be keenly aware of just how much it can vary.”

Snowpack in the Poudre basin has been below average eight years and above average seven years since 2000, April 1 NRCS data show…

Warming temperatures and declining snowpack statewide have shifted snowmelt and peak runoff in Colorado river basins by one to four weeks earlier over the past 30 years, according to the report.

“It seems to be more of a long-term picture on how the snowpack will continue to be affected,” said Dennis Ojima, a CSU professor and one of the editors of the study.

These trends have been more common in southern parts of the state, Doesken said. The Cache la Poudre River Basin, which is part of the greater South Platte River Basin, is “historically a bit more reliable” than other parts of the state, Doesken said.

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