#Snowpack news: @NASA is heading back out into the field this winter and needs back-country oriented folks

SnowEx aircraft, February 17, 2016.

From the Associated Press (Dan Joling) via The Kingman Daily Miner:

America’s space agency wants you to head for the mountains with a smartphone and a measuring stick…

NASA’s earth science arm is funding research that recruits citizen scientists on skis, snowshoes and snowmobiles to measure snow depth in backcountry locations of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

Their measurements will be incorporated into computer models that calculate how much water will end up in the region’s rivers and reservoirs.

Early results have been promising.

“Our initial model runs show that citizen science measurements are doing an amazing job of improving our simulations,” said David Hill, an Oregon State University professor of civil engineering, who is collaborating with Alaska and University of Washington researchers. They received one of 16 NASA citizen science grants for the project.

From The Deseret News (McKenzie Romero):

The National Weather service reported 0.3 inches of snow and 0.18 inches of rain at the Salt Lake City International Airport on Saturday, but the storm was expected to dry up overnight. The agency called the sleety conditions “a very rare phenomena for Utah” on Twitter and its website.

“Sleet occurs when snowflakes only partially melt when they fall through a shallow layer of warm air. These slushy drops refreeze as they next fall through a deep layer of freezing air above the surface, and eventually reach the ground as frozen rain drops that bounce on impact. Depending on the intensity and duration, sleet can accumulate on the ground much like snow,” the National Weather Service explained.

The rest of the Salt Lake Valley recorded less than an inch of precipitation, as did cities to the north and south along the Wasatch Front.

The storm was just the outer edge of a weather system expected to sock western Colorado with up to 10 inches of snow in high country areas, according to the Associated Press. The Colorado Department of Transportation warned skiers and others recreating in the mountains in that state to consider heading home early to avoid dangerous driving conditions.

Saturday’s storm came just two days after the Natural Resources Conservation Service called Utah’s snowpack, especially in southwestern Utah, “beyond abysmal.”

“This is one of the worst water years I’ve seen in my lifetime,” Ron Thompson, general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District, said in a press release Thursday. “We can drive our entire watershed right now and kick up dust – that’s unprecedented for this time of year.”

Randy Julander, snow survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said there is less than a 20 percent chance that southern Utah will hit its normal snowpack levels this winter.

As of 3 p.m. Saturday, the National Weather Service reported that southern Utah’s mountains had seen between 0.2 and 0.1 inches of precipitation during the storm.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Katie Langford):

[Powderhorn Mountain Resort on Grand Mesa] will temporarily reduce its schedule starting Monday in an effort to preserve the 7 inches of snow currently on the mountain, said General Manager Sam Williams. Until further notice, the resort will be open Thursday through Sunday…

Crested Butte Mountain Resort is faring better than other resorts in western Colorado. The resort has 2 feet of snow and 77 of 121 trails open. Spokesman Zach Pickett said while there’s far less natural snow this year compared to previous years, the resort has managed to “maximize our snow-making efforts” in order to open new terrain.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Survey crews have measured snow depths in southwestern Colorado at 22 percent of normal, the upper Colorado River Basin at 65 percent of normal and the Arkansas River Basin at 49 percent of normal. National Weather Service meteorologists forecast limited snow through mid-January, though they also see a possibility that ocean-driven atmospheric patterns will shift by March and bring snow…

Colorado natural resources officials plan to review “emerging drought conditions” next week. While most of Colorado currently is classified as abnormally dry, areas of the Western Slope are officially in drought.

Statewide snowpack January 7, 2018 via the NRCS.

…the Colorado mountain snowpack that feeds the nation’s main rivers hasn’t been this paltry statewide in the more than three decades since systematic measuring began, U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service snow survey supervisor Brian Domonkos said…

For the Gunnison River Basin, snowpack at 35 percent of normal ranked the lowest on record for this time of year, as did the 64 percent snowpack along the Yampa and White rivers, according to federal data. The Upper Rio Grande River Basin snowpack, at 29 percent of normal, ranked third lowest in 32 years. Metro Denver residents rely heavily on the South Platte River Basin, where snowpack measured 83 percent of normal for early January…

“It is still hard to tell what the water supply implications are going to be. We are still somewhat early in the season,” Colorado Water Conservation Board climate change specialist and drought program manager Taryn Finnessey said.

“It is not good. But, right now, our reservoir storage is above average in all basins,” Finnessey said. “The further along we get in the snow season, the harder it is to make up the deficit. Should we be in this same position in late March, obviously, we would be reacting differently than we are in January.”

Denver Water officials on Thursday said their reservoirs measured 88 percent full, higher than the average at this time of year of 83 percent. And snowpack in the areas where snow feeds Denver Water reservoirs generally is thicker than in other parts of the state.

From The Crested Butte News (Aimee Eaton):

Nordic skiing is taking a hit around Crested Butte this winter as warm temperatures and little snowfall are limiting trail openings and forcing local non-profit organization Crested Butte Nordic to make tough decisions regarding grooming and trail maintenance…

With current conditions, Crested Butte Nordic will need about six inches of snow to be able to groom again on the Westside trails that have already opened, and a foot or more to get any new trails open.

“We have five kilometers of good, groomable trails open right now, and another five kilometers to ten kilometers of packed trails open on the Westside that we can’t continue to groom but will leave open for scenic enjoyment. Those looking to skate or enjoy good classic tracks should head to the Bench/Ruthie’s Run. Those looking for a nice walk or tour in the sunshine can still head out Mike’s Mile,” said Hicks. “Trail passes are still required on all open trails, and we kindly ask that folks respect all closures until we get more snow.”

From The Summit Daily:

Breckenridge, Copper Mountain and Loveland — were all reporting 5 inches of fresh snow each as of 7 a.m. today.

At the same time, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin had each gotten 4 inches, according to the resorts, and Vail Ski Resort in Eagle County had received 9 inches.

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