FromThe Santa Fe New Mexican (Rebecca Moss) via The Taos News:
Extreme hurricanes, fires and earthquakes dominated headlines in 2017. And almost daily, the validity of policy enacted by the Obama administration to prevent global warming through international commitments and domestic policy are disputed and unwound by the Trump administration. It’s a debate that resonates deeply in New Mexico, where environmental concern and an oil-driven economy are often at odds.
“If people demand iron-clad proof that humans are changing the climate, then we can’t react,”Gutzler said. “But from my perspective, there has been such a mountain of evidence – to toss all that out because there are uncertainties would be choosing stupidity.”
Gutzler’s profession is based on an ever-evolving science of prediction and how finite environmental conditions – the precise interaction between the amount of atmospheric moisture and the velocity of the wind – correlate to the weather tomorrow, next winter and, ultimately, decades from today.
Uncertainty is what first drew Gutzler to the field. As an undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, he intended to study physics but, on a whim, signed up for a meteorology lecture. The professor introduced him to the principles of chaos theory, based on meteorologist Edward Lorenz’s research on what is now known as the butterfly effect.
The Colorado Ag Water Alliance is an association of 20 agricultural organizations. These workshops are meant to provide information and gain feedback from farmers and ranchers around the state on important Ag water issues. We’ll be discussing water leasing across the state, “use it or lose it,” Ag water conservation, and piping and lining ditches.
Mancos Workshop – January 30th – 12PM – 4PM
Mancos Community Center – 130 W. Grand Ave, 81328 Mancos, CO
Arriola Workshop – January 31st – 9AM – 1PM
Lewis Arriola Community Center – 21203 Road S, Cortez, CO 81321
Don’t be surprised when horned Viking helmets inundate Breckenridge this week, as more than 12,000 snow-worshipers are expected to line Main Street for the 55th annual Ullr Fest parade.
The parade on Thursday serves as the centerpiece for one of Breckenridge’s most well known, signature wintertime festivals, a four-day celebration paying homage to Ullr, the Norse god of snow.
The name is pronounced “ULL-er” — it rhymes with “cooler” — and few, if any, Colorado towns can put on a winter festival that’s even near as cool as the one Breckenridge has been perfecting for over a half-century now.
ULLR FEST SCHEDULE
Below is a lineup of events for Ullr Fest in Breckenridge, a four-day festival honoring Ullr, the Norse god of snow, Wednesday through Saturday.
6:30 p.m. — Crowning of the Ullr Fest King and Queen at the Riverwalk Center, 150 W. Adams Ave., immediately before the Breck’s Got Talent contest. Doors open at 6 p.m.
6:30 p.m. — Breck’s Got Talent at Riverwalk Center. The first 200 attendees over 21 get a free beer. For more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
7 p.m. — Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League All-Star Game at the Stephen C. West Ice Arena, 189 Boreas Pass Road, with intermissions featuring Ullr prizes and family fun.
4 p.m. — Ullr Shot Ski on Main Street. Registration is $10. People must be at least 21 years old with valid ID to participate. Proceeds benefit the Breckenridge Mountain Rotary. Register online at GoBreck.com.
4:30 p.m. — Fat Tire Ullr Bike Race on Main Street. Register online at GoBreck.com.
4:30 p.m. — Ullr Parade on Main Street with cash prizes.
5-7 p.m. — Ullr Bonfire at the South Gondola Parking Lot with free entertainment by Red Bull.
2-4 p.m. — iFurnish Ullr Ice Plunge in Maggie Pond at Main Street Station Plaza, 501 S. Main St.
8 p.m. — Comedy Night with stand-up comedian Jimmy Dunn at Riverwalk Center. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 and available online at BreckCreate.org.
11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. — Family Snow Day at Carter Park, 300 S. High St. where children are welcome to play in the snow, sled, build a snowman or participate in other fun family activities. Everything is free.
1:15-3 p.m. – Ice Skating Party and free kids Ullr helmet decorating at Steven C. West Ice Arena.
6 p.m. — Wild and Scenic Film Festival at Riverwalk Center. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. For more, HighCountryConservation.org or GoBreck.com.
The 2018 water year has been off to very dry start across Colorado, with the southern half of the state receiving notably less precipitation than the northern half. As of January 5th, the statewide snow water equivalent (SWE) was the second lowest on record. There is a wide range of snowpack levels across the state, from a low of 23 percent of normal in the combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas, and San Juan basins to a high of 87 percent in the North and South Platte basins, with the statewide SWE being 54 percent of normal. These same spatial trends exist in water year-to-date precipitation values with an even broader spread. The aforementioned basins of southwest Colorado have received 19 percent of average precipitation since October 1st and the South Platte has received 102 percent, with the entire state averaging out at 59 percent of average. Given the dry conditions to date, it is generally viewed as good news that all major river basins in the state are currently holding above average reservoir storage. Of particular note is the Rio Grande basin which has only 29 percent of normal snowpack but despite having been below the long-term average for the vast majority of time since 2001, has now had above average reservoir storage since last June. Streamflow forecasts largely reflect the spatial patterns observed on precipitation and accumulated snowpack, with forecasts being much lower in the southern half of Colorado and higher in the north. That said, currently all streamflow forecasts in the state of Colorado are for below average spring and summer volumes.
The snowpack across most of Colorado’s mountains is at dismal levels after a dry start to the accumulation season. On January 1st, 34 of the 104 SNOTEL sites with at least 10 years of data collection had record low snow water equivalent (SWE) amounts, another 13 had the second lowest SWE accumulations, and about 90 percent of sites were reporting a snowpack below median levels. Almost half of river sub-basins in Colorado are below 50 percent of normal snowpack, with most of these drainages concentrated in the southern portion of the state. Additionally, four of the seven major river basins are below 50 percent of normal, and all are below 90 percent of the median for January 1st. The combined San Miguel Dolores, Animas, and San Juan River basins have the lowest snowpack, with respect to normal, and collectively have only accumulated 23 percent of median snowpack for January 1st. The other southern basins are also experiencing low-snow conditions, with the Upper Rio Grande and Gunnison River basins at 29 and 37 percent of the median respectively, and the Arkansas at 48 percent of median, bolstered mainly by higher accumulations in the northern reaches of the basin. Snowpack conditions improve slightly moving northward, where the combined Yampa and White River basins are at 65 percent of the median and the Colorado River basin is at 68 percent. The South Platte and North Platte, the northernmost basins east of the Continental Divide, contain the best snowpack, with respect to normal, and are both at 87 percent of the median. With about half of the snow accumulation season still ahead of us, there is still time for conditions to improve across the state. However, only about three months remain until Colorado’s mountains typically reach their peak snowpack for the year, so the foundation that has been set does not provide a promising outlook for universally abundant snowmelt runoff this spring.
Dry conditions have dominated the 2018 water year for most of Colorado’s major river basins. The majority of storm events reaching the state have skirted the southwest basins almost entirely. The combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas, and San Juan River basins have not exceeded 25 percent of average for a single month since the water year began on October 1st. Currently SNOTEL stations in those basins have received on average only a meager 2.1 inches of precipitation since October, bringing the basins to only 19 percent of average water year precipitation. The Upper Rio Grande and Gunnison River basins have not fared much better, and have remained below 50 percent of average monthly precipitation for each month this water year. These basins are currently at 34 and 37 percent of average, respectively, for year-to-date precipitation. The Arkansas River basin has received only slightly better precipitation accumulations since this fall, and water year-to-date precipitation is currently at 56 percent of average. The Upper Colorado and combined Yampa, White, and North Platte River basins are also well-below average at 74 and 76 percent of average, respectively, for the water year. The South Platte River basin is the anomaly in Colorado so far this year, and is currently at 102 percent of average for the water year. Ample precipitation in October, at 117 percent of average, provided the South Platte River basin a good start to water year, and subsequent months have remained only slightly below normal. Regardless, statewide precipitation is only at 59 percent of average for water year-to-date and Colorado’s mountains have a lot of catching up to do to bring the statewide precipitation to near normal levels.
While the 2018 water year has been off to a very dry start, Colorado reservoir storage has remained above average in every major river basin for the last three months. These values range from a low of 104 percent of average in the Gunnison basin to a high of 143 percent average storage in the Arkansas basin. Statewide reservoir storage was 115 percent of average as of January 1st. These above average storage volumes may be particularly important in the Rio Grande, San Miguel, Dolores, Animas, and San Juan basins of southwest Colorado where snowpack and water year precipitation have been by far the lowest in the state. These storage levels come at a critical time to the Rio Grande, in particular, because with the exception of one spike in 2009 this basin has had below average storage levels since 2001, until last June when they finally reached above average levels and have remained so ever since. The basin is holding 123 percent of average storage as of January 1st. While still holding 105 percent of average reservoir storage the combined basins of southwest Colorado appear to be in a slightly more precarious situation at this point in the season because this region only has 23 percent of normal snowpack compared to the slightly higher 29 percent of the Rio Grande. Current streamflow forecasts for both areas are well below normal, so without a substantial increase in precipitation that reservoir storage will become critical this summer. The South Platte, Colorado, and combined Yampa, White, and North Platte basins are all holding between 113 and 117 percent of average reservoir storage.
The current range of streamflow forecasts do not provide an optimistic outlook for superfluous runoff in Colorado this spring. Drastically below normal snowpack and precipitation, particularly in the southern half of the state, have caused forecasted streamflow volumes for most forecast points to fall below normal for all but the lowest exceedance probabilities. This indicates that although there is still much uncertainty in forecasts this early in the water year, conditions are such that changes are not likely to be drastic enough to elicit near normal streamflow volumes. However, there is a wide range of forecasted streamflow volumes for gages across Colorado, and there are several forecast points in the northern river basins that have a higher probability of reaching normal streamflow volumes. Following the trends in snowpack and precipitation, the bleakest April through July streamflow volumes are anticipated for the Upper Rio Grande and combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas, and San Juan River basins. Here, the entire suite of forecasts fall below normal. Therefore, if current conditions prevail, there is less than a 10 percent probability of reaching normal flows at all but two forecast points and the 50 percent exceedance forecasts are calling for flows ranging from 28 to 63 percent of average. Forecasts in the Gunnison River basin are for similarly low volumes, ranging from 33 to 78 percent of normal. Many forecasts in the Colorado and combined Yampa and White River basins are also well below normal. Forecast points on some tributaries do have a better outlook, leading to a wide range of anticipated streamflows, from 45 to 92 percent of average. Forecast points in the North and South Platte River basins are the most likely to achieve normal flows given current snowpack and precipitation conditions and range from 73 percent to 94 percent of average. There is still time for a positive change to water supply conditions, but it would be wise to start planning for below normal runoff across much of Colorado.
Here’s the release from the NRCS (Brian Domonkos):
The start to the 2018 water year has been one of the driest on record for Colorado, as recorded by the NRCS SNOTEL network which has been monitoring mountain snowpack and precipitation since the late 1970s. As of January 5th, statewide snow water equivalent (SWE) is at 52 percent of median and there are some very stark differences across the various basins of Colorado. The northern mountains are holding substantially more snow than those of the southern half of the state with the South Platte basin having the most, at 83 percent of median. Alternatively, the combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas, and San Juan basins are the lowest with a meager 21 percent of normal SWE. Karl Wetlaufer, a Hydrologist with the NRCS Snow Survey Program, notes that “While there is still a lot of winter left we would need to receive well above average precipitation for the rest of the season to achieve a normal peak snow accumulation, especially in southern Colorado”
La Niña conditions are currently present and so far this water year, temperature and precipitation have seemed to display the pattern that is commonly observed across the Rocky Mountains under this climate phenomenon. Wetlaufer explains “This is being observed with the Northern Rockies generally receiving colder temperatures and more precipitation and the Southern Rockies being notably warmer and drier” adding “Montana and Northern Wyoming have had well above normal snowfall for the last several months while much of Arizona and New Mexico have received little to no precipitation at all, with Colorado and Southern Wyoming filling in the north to south gradient”.
From a water supply standpoint the good news for Colorado is that this is the first January in many years where every major river basin in the state is holding above average reservoir storage volumes. These values range from a low of 104 percent of average in the Gunnison to a high of 143 percent in the Arkansas River basin. Statewide reservoir storage currently resides at 115 percent of average.
While it is good to keep in mind that a lot can still change to influence spring and summer streamflow volumes, forecasts generally reflect the trends in snowpack across Colorado, with higher volumes forecasted for the northern basins and lower volumes in the southern parts of the state. That said, at the 50 percent chance of exceedance level there are no streams in the state forecasted to have above average streamflow volumes at this time. For more specific forecast values and water supply prospects view the Colorado Water Supply Outlook Report.
For more detailed and the most up to date information about Colorado snowpack and supporting water supply related information, refer to the Colorado Snow Survey website at: