#Snowpack news: Yampa/White basins = 114% of normal, #BlueRiver = 129%

Colorado snowpack basin-filled map March 5, 2020 via the NRCS.

From Steamboat Today (Kari Dequine Harden):

On March 5, the snow water equivalent in Northwest Colorado was at 114% of average, according to data from the Natural Resource Conservation Service Snotel.

[Joel] Gratz said his numbers are closer to 120%.

In the southwestern corner of Routt County, the snow water equivalent is between 88% and 95% of average.

February was a big month for snow, with a snowpack growth of 44% above average, Gratz said…

Ellen Bonnifield, a local weather observer in Yampa for the National Weather Service, said she’d recorded 38.8 inches of snow in February, and 122 inches for the season. The average for the whole season in Yampa is about 118.9 inches, she said.

In the more than 25 years she’s been an observer, Bonnifield said this February was second only to 1996, when she recorded 40.5 inches for the month.

A Snotel telemetry site maintained by the Conservation Service on Rabbit Ears Pass, at an elevation of 9,400 feet, recorded a snow depth of 71 inches as of March 5, and a snow water equivalent of 22.7 inches. Snow depth at the Tower telemetry site, which has a 10,500 feet elevation on Buffalo Pass, was at 110 inches, with 39.4 inches of snow water equivalent…

At the Lynx Pass telemetry site, with an elevation of 8,880 feet, the snow depth was 42 inches with 12.1 inches of snow water equivalent as of March 5. The Bear River site, at 9,080 feet in elevation located south of Yampa in the Flat Tops area, had a recorded snow depth of 41 inches, with 10.6 inches of snow water equivalent.

Peak snowpack is considered at the first or second weekend in April, Pokrandt said.

As the beginning of the runoff season nears in April, Pokrandt said, the forecast for runoff in the Yampa River at Maybell is estimated to be 108% of average.

It is still about a month away from numbers that will tell a more meaningful story about snowpack and runoff, he said. The amount of moisture already in the soil before the first snow falls has an impact on the runoff amounts. First, the snow melts into the ground, then it runs off into the streams and rivers.

In general across the west, Pokrandt said, the soil is on the drier side this year, due to a monsoon season — July and August — that was a “nonsoon” season.

From The Summit Daily (Taylor Sienkiewicz):

Following record-breaking October and February snowfall, the Blue River basin snowpack is above average. Treste Huse, a senior hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Boulder, said the snow-water equivalent — or how much water is held in the snowpack — is 129% of average while the Colorado River basin’s snow-water equivalent is 116% of average.

The seasonal peak for snowpack is in April, according to Huse, who reported that the Blue River basin is at 95% of the seasonal median, or what you would normally see by the April peak. She cautioned that the data doesn’t necessarily mean the above-average snowpack trend will continue…

When looking at five-year increments of snowpack data, Huse said one or two years are usually above average. Going forward, Huse explained that there are no La Niña or El Niño phenomenons affecting precipitation. She said this “neutral cycle” is predicted to continue through spring and summer…

“The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center is anticipating low cumulative runoff numbers for this spring and summer from the San Juan Basin southward,” the center reported March 3. “This is due not only to low snowpack but also very low soil moisture prior to the start of the cold season.”

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