@ColoradoClimate: Weekly Climate, Water and #Drought Assessment of the Intermountain West

Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

#Snowpack news: The Laramie Valley is doing OK

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map February 27, 2018 via the NRCS.

From The Gillette News-Record:

Increased snowpack near the Wyoming-Colorado border could mean average water supply for the Laramie Valley this year, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration representative said.

Despite below-average snowpack at the Laramie River’s headwaters in Cameron Pass, Colorado, NOAA Hydrologist Jim Fahey said Albany County’s water supply prediction was unusually similar to 2017’s…

Laramie Water Resources Administrator Darren Parkin said one reason the water supply is doing so well is an influx of precipitation around Dead Man Hill and Roach in Colorado near the Wyoming border.

“We were around 83 percent (of average water supply) on the Laramie River at the beginning of the month,” Parkin said. “Today, we’re at about 111 percent, so we’re tracking up.”

Only a small amount of the city’s water is supplied by snowpack in the Snowy Range, Parkin explained. Most of Laramie’s water comes from the headwaters of the Laramie River, which originate in Colorado around Cameron Pass, Chambers Lake and the Rawah Range.

While the city does not use reservoir storage, relying instead on groundwater wells on the Casper Aquifer in a time of drought, Parkin said Lake Hattie was about 67 percent full and Gray Rocks Reservoir near Wheatland was completely full, which would benefit Albany County’s agriculture industry.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

The statewide snowpack reached 74 percent of normal as of Friday, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. That’s up sharply from 59 percent as of the start of the month.

Chris Cuoco, senior forecaster at the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said basin-by-basin increases since Feb. 1 are even better than he’d realized until checking the data. They include:

■ The Yampa/White River basins, at 81 percent of median Friday, up from 72 percent.

■ The Upper Colorado River Basin, 85 percent, up from 75 percent.

■ The Gunnison basin, 63 percent, up from 48 percent.

■ The San Miguel/Dolores/Animas/San Juan basins, 55 percent, up from 36 percent.

■ The Upper Rio Grande basin, 59 percent, up from 35 percent.

“It’s a better increase than I would have thought, so that’s good — (up) to the tune of 20 percent down south, so that’s a pretty good jump,” he said.

Nevertheless, the snowpack deficit remains significant. Karl Wetlaufer, assistant snow supervisor for the NRCS Colorado snow survey program, says that with less than two months left in the typical snow accumulation season, the kind of snowfall needed to reach peak accumulation has happened only twice out of the last 36 years.

Klaus Wolter, a research scientist in Boulder with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado, said the recent shift to a wetter weather pattern, while good news, is “a Hail Mary pass that’s not going to succeed. It’s not going to turn the game around.”

Abundant recent snowfall enabled Powderhorn Mountain Resort to return to a seven-day-a-week schedule this week. Resort spokesman Ryan Robinson said Powderhorn had gotten 6 or 8 inches for the day as of late afternoon Friday, 8 inches the prior 24 hours, and almost four and a half feet over the last two weeks.

But Wetlaufer said that even with the snowier weather of late, three automated snow measurement sites on Grand Mesa remained at record-low levels as of Thursday, based on records dating back 29 to 40 years, depending on the site.

A breakdown in a high-pressure ridge over the western United States has allowed storm systems to move through the state, particularly more to the south where snowfall has been meager this winter…

He noted that as of Tuesday, southwest Colorado was listed as being in extreme drought, with much of western Colorado in severe drought…

Both Wolter and Wetlaufer worry about a dearth of snow at some lower-elevation sites across the state…

And while Colorado has been blessed by some wet Mays in recent years, “I just don’t see the writing on the wall in that direction” this year, Wolter said.

The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center currently is saying there’s a probability of both warmer and drier conditions than normal in Colorado over the next three months.

Meanwhile, Jeff Derry, executive director of the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies in Silverton, is sounding another concerning note about this year’s snowpack.

At a field site on Red Mountain Pass, the center’s Colorado Dust-on-Snow program monitors weather events that blow dust onto Colorado’s mountains in the winter, which can accelerate melting once that dark dust layer is exposed to sunlight in the spring.

Derry wrote on the center’s website that winds gusting up to 83 mph out of the southwest early this week resulted in the first significant dust storm the center has observed this season.

“Because this event is more than a meter from the ground in the snowpack, we expect this event to have hydrologic consequences once exposed in the spring,” he wrote.

He said the dust-on-snow program team will begin statewide sampling tours in March to determine the extent and severity of the dust storm, “which is likely widespread with locales like Aspen Mountain reporting dust arriving on this storm front.”

#Drought news

West Drought Monitor February 20, 2018.

From The Monte Vista Journal (Anthony Guerrero):

2017 was a good water year and snowpack, but 2018 is shaping up to be a drought year. This and other statistics about weather patterns in the San Luis Valley were brought by Nolan Doesken, climatologist for the Colorado Water Institute at CSU, during the 2018 Southern Rocky Mountain Agricultural Conference. Doesken gave a presentation titled “Recent past weather and a look ahead.”

“You have this beautiful sunshine, yet you really want rain? I don’t understand you all,” joked Doesken. Doesken stated previous years had been okay to average with precipitation that local crops had responded to. This year is looking bleak in terms of water to be expected.

The weather in the Valley is “warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter,” according to Doesken. The Valley is also cooler than other parts of the state and is unique that it expands one of the largest areas of agricultural land in the United States.

“Last summer was a crazy wet year. It’s one of the wettest years we’ve ever seen down here,” said Doesken.

“Falls have been consistently warm for the last several years. You’ve probably noticed that. It’s quite interesting in that regard,” he said…

Doesken then addressed the trends in 2018. “We’re not doing very good,” he said. It is warmer than average temperatures this year. “Do you realize so far this year you’ve had two days where you were in the 60s?” So far 57 days in winter have had high temperatures of 57 or above. According to Doesken this has happened before— in 1981. Records show that was a drought year with no snow in the San Luis Valley.

The temperatures in the Valley are very variable said Doesken. This variance can be seen by simply comparing temperatures at the end of the day, aftertoon and early morning. “There has been days where there have been 50 and 60 degree swings in temperature…that is something you’re used to here but this year has been more extreme than most.”

From The Broomfield Enterprise (Kelley Rawlsky):

Do you need to water the landscape in your yard during the winter? Absolutely yes! Just because some of your trees, shrubs and turf may look dead, they are not. They are dormant. Big difference.

I liken dormancy to when we sleep -— an analogy that would probably make my plant physiology professor cringe. There are still activities going on in our bodies while we slumber. We don’t temporarily die each night then wake up alive again the next day. There are two types of dormancy with woody plants. To learn more, read this online article by Michigan State University Extension: msue.anr.msu.edu/news/winter_dormancy_and_chilling_in_woody_plants…

Remember to water the entire drip line of large established trees. Their root systems are typically spread out to an amount equal to or greater than the height of the tree. A healthy plant is its own best defense against insect and disease issues, so water regularly during the winter to have happy plants in the summer.

DWR job opportunity: District 8 Lead Water Commissioner (EPSTII)

Click here to view the announcement from the State of Colorado website:

Description of Job
This Water Commissioner position exists to ascertain available water supply and distribute, control and regulate the waters in Division 1 Water District 8, including portions of the South Platte River, Cherry Creek, Plum Creek and tributaries, on a daily basis pursuant to water decrees, state statutes, and substitute water supply plans. Additionally, under the direction of the Division Engineer, this position exists to record and compile permanent records of water diversions and use; disseminate and explain information pertaining to water availability and use to the public;; monitor dams for unsafe conditions,; investigate new water rights and change of use applications for potential injury to existing water rights; coordination and administration of transmountain diversions; administration of water rights that include large municipal, industrial and irrigation water users; coordination and administration of several reservoirs including Cherry Creek Reservoir and Rueter-Hess Reservoir, storage and releases; administration of daily exchanges; administration of numerous augmentation plans; and to serve as a guide and authority to water users. This position requires knowledge of the different types of water rights and the ability to disseminate this information as may be required. This position also reviews, creates and operates computerized spreadsheets and databases. Must be knowledgeable of water distribution and regulation, general understanding of Colorado Water Law, Division 1 accounting principles and basic dam safety inspection procedures and techniquest.

Living up to the La Nina hype – News on TAP

Projected weather pattern promised a drier winter for much of Colorado. And so far, so dry.

Source: Living up to the La Nina hype – News on TAP

@ColoradoStateU: Registration now open for inaugural Water in the West Symposium, April 26-27, 2018

Click here for the inside skinny and to register.

McNichols Civic Center Building photo credit: Tsunami Publicity

Taos Valley Acequia Association Annual Meeting, March 3, 2018

Click here for the inside skinny.