#Snowpack/#runoff news: Be thankful for the late March snowfall rally

From The Denver Post (Jason Blevins):

The warm and dry weather in early March triggered an early melt, marked by some of the strongest streamflows for the month in decades, but powerful storms at the end of the month left the statewide snowpack sitting at 107 percent of normal, according to the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Colorado Water Supply Outlook Report for April 1.

Most Colorado river basins typically see snowpacks growing into the middle of April. But the unseasonably early warmth in early March changed that, with the melt beginning weeks earlier than normal. All of the state’s major river basins saw snowpack declines of 20 percent to 40 percent of normal in March.

Heavy snow and cold temperatures late in the month reversed the trend. But the real luck was the bountiful January, when all but one of Colorado’s seven major river basins saw more than 200 percent of normal snowfall. That January pile up — with snowfall for the record books — can be credited with rescuing Colorado’s water supply this season.

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS.

From The Greeley Tribune (Nate Miller):

“The recent dry spell that we’ve had — recent being February and March — is a bit on the concerning side,” said Brian Domonkos, Colorado Snow Survey supervisor. “It is comforting to know that we had great snow going into the dry spell, but to see some of that early melt-off seems to make runoff less efficient.”

March saw unseasonably dry and warm weather in the mountains, prompting some early snowmelt and bringing a hint of caution to what had been optimistic forecasts about the state’s snowpack…

In the two basins that feed Weld its water, snowpack totals also were above normal. In the Colorado River basin, snowpack was 105 percent of normal on April 1 and 99 percent of last year’s snowpack. Those numbers are down dramatically from the beginning of March, when snowpack was 135 percent of normal and of last year’s snowpack.

In the South Platte basin, snowpack was 103 percent of normal and 98 percent of last year’s total at the start of April. Reservoir storage for the Colorado basin was 108 percent of average and 111 percent of last year’s average reservoir storage. In the South Platte, reservoir storage was 106 percent of average and 109 percent of last year.

Domonkos said Colorado stream flow forecasts are normal to slightly above normal. In the South Platte stream flow forecasts are below normal. He said because all the numbers are so close to their norms, he isn’t concerned about any abnormal risk of flooding this year. Still, the weather in Colorado is unpredictable.

From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

In spite of unseasonably warm and dry weather over the first two-thirds of the month of March, statewide snowpack is hanging in at 111 percent of median, Brian Domonkos, Colorado snow survey supervisor, reported this week. However, the combined Yampa/White river basins represent the only region in the state where snowpack is below average…

According to the National Resources Conservation Service, where Domonkos heads up the Colorado snow survey, snowpack in the two-river basin stood at 86 percent of median on April 1…

He was referring to record low snowpack accumulation in October and November, followed by record high snowpack accumulation in December and January, and a near record low snowpack accumulation again in March…

elatively good snowpack remains in the Gunnison, Arkansas, and combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins all above 118 percent of normal. Only the combined Yampa and White basins are now below normal, according to Domonkos.

But the trend has reversed and picked up snowpack modestly since the first of the month. On April 7, it was a tale of two snow measurement sites.

At the Dry Lake site, sitting at an elevation of 8,400 feet, the snowpack was at 77 percent of median. At the top of Buffalo Pass, the Tower site at 10,700 feet had more snow and snow water equivalent, but the latter was just 86 percent of median for that high elevation.

The outlier in the Steamboat area is at a snowpack measuring site on the east side of Rabbit Ears Pass in Buffalo Park. The snowpack there is 142 percent of median. Much of that water will run down Muddy Creek on its way to Wolford Mountain Reservoir north of Kremmling.

From SheridanMedia.com:

The latest spring flood outlook predicts record amounts of water coming down Wyoming mountains this spring and summer in a number of major river basins. Water supply specialist Lee Hackleman of the Natural Resources Conservation Service says record runoff is expected in the Wind, Green, Sweetwater and Shoshone river basins because of the snowpacks that have accumulated this past winter.

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