#Snowpack news: #ElNiño still around

Westwide SNOTEL map March 31, 2016 via the NRCS.
Westwide SNOTEL map March 31, 2016 via the NRCS.

From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

The month of March has been the 7th snowiest March in recorded resort history and the snowiest since 114 inches fell in March 2003, according to a news release from the resort. Since Friday March 26, they have picked up 20 inches of snow in the prior three days, 64 inches since March 15, and 83.5 inches (almost seven feet) in the entire month, putting Winter Park at over 300 inches of snow for the season.

From the Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

Winter got off to a good start high in the Rocky Mountains, but mid-winter was sluggish. Ketchum, for example, got just one inch of snow in February.

Meteorologists last autumn had warned to expect just this sort of El Niño pattern. They also said to expect lots of moisture beginning in March and continuing until May.

That’s still the prediction of Aspen-based Ryan Boudreau and his partner, Cory Gates, who own a micro-forecasting service called Aspen Weather. They told The Aspen Times they expect another 125 to 130 inches of snowfall on local ski slopes through the third week of April. The precedent Boudreau recalls is 1983, another El Niño year.

That 1982-83 winter had also started strong, then turned ho-hum after Christmas. As the ski slopes began closing, the storms arrived one after another in Winter Park and other mountain towns. There was so much spring snow that Vail reopened for Memorial Day Weekend in late May.

Then it got hot in June—and the snow vanished. Rivers roared. Downstream in the desert of Utah, managers of Glen Canyon Dam began to worry. Lake Powell, the second largest reservoir in the United States, can hold nearly one and a half times the annual, average flow of the Colorado River.

This was not a normal year, though. Spillways were opened, but the volume was greater than ever experienced. The whole dam began to shake violently. Plywood was installed atop the dam, so that the reservoir could hold more water. It looked to be a lost cause, but then in mid-July the volume of inflow into Lake Powell began to slow. Calamity was averted—but narrowly.

A relatively new and highly-regarded book called “The Emerald Mile” tells the story of that calamitous summer and a thrilling [boat] ride on the crest of those flood waters through the Grand Canyon.

Can we expect that again? Not likely, as Lake Powell was only 46 percent full as of early March, so there’s lots of room.

1983 - Color photo of Glen Canyon Dam spillway failure from cavitation, via OnTheColorado.com
1983 – Color photo of Glen Canyon Dam spillway failure from cavitation, via OnTheColorado.com

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