Snowpack news: Not much dust on snow this season in Colorado will help slow melt-out

Westwide SNOTEL snow water equivalent as a percent of normal April 23, 2015
Westwide SNOTEL snow water equivalent as a percent of normal April 23, 2015

From The Denver Post (Jason Blevins):

The absence of the melt-spurring layers of ruddy southwestern dust bodes well for Colorado water watchers eager for a slow thaw.

“When you don’t have dust on snow as an accelerant to already not-great conditions, that’s a good thing,” said Jim Pokrandt, spokesman for the Colorado River District, which spans 15 counties on the Western Slope, accounting for about 28 percent Colorado’s landmass…

There have been three relatively weak dust events in Colorado so far this season, most of them impacting the southern portion of the state. This time last year, there had been seven events, with a couple in March depositing thick layers on the snowpack. In late April 2013, Silverton-based researchers chronicling the impact of dust on snow tallied nine events including a major March windstorm that accounted for 90 percent of the total dust they measured for the season. Through March this year, there were no measurable dust events. Three so far in April have coated the snow with small layers of dust.

“This year is proving to be comparatively light,” said Chris Landry, the director of the Center for Snow & Avalanche Studies in Silverton who has been charting dust-on-snow since 2003.

The recent snow storms in the last two weeks have helped to bury the dust layers and thwart an early melt-off after an unseasonably warm and dry March. Snowpack levels across the state are below median levels, with the southern river basins around 30 percent of median while the basins in the northern and central portion of the state are between 60 percent to 88 percent of median.

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