#Snowpack news: Some accumulation from the past storm in SW #Colorado, a lot of water year to go

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS. The statewide basin-filled map looks great but it’s way early in the water year to relax. What a difference one storm can make this time of year.

From The Montrose Daily Press (Michael Cox):

The Sunday punch “storm” laid about 8 to 10 inches of snow in the Montrose area while dropping an equal amount or more in the high country. Or, so you would think.

I took a look through the SNOTEL reports for Monday and the snowpack on the peaks with measuring stations did not report great accumulations. Columbine Pass, on the Uncompahgre Plateau southwest of Montrose, has 3 inches on the ground. The Idarado station, near U.S. 550, reports 5 inches, Red Mountain has 4. Lizard Head, to the south, has only an inch.

These three SNOTEL stations are all in the San Juan Mountains and above 10,000 feet. By looking at the surrounding mountains, there appears to more white stuff on the major peaks. It is a start anyway.

A couple of observations. We normally have some kind of early snow event in October, which sort of gets us excited about the coming snow season. If you saw the year’s precipitation as a graph, you would see September and October as pretty much a flatline, with a littler (snow) bump somewhere along the third quarter baseline. Often, what snow we get in September or October runs off and becomes part of the instream flow after the irrigation system ends.

The second thought is a question about the accuracy of the readings and the possibility that the recorded snowpack numbers maybe be misleading.

This might be true for two reasons. One, is the fact that LIDAR, a newer laser/radar method of measuring snow depth, has proven that SNOTEL falls well short when it comes to accuracy that can be relied on as a water use forecasting tool. This is critical given the extreme importance of having a better picture of the snow resources that we have to work with in a given year.

If proposal “7A” passes next Tuesday, perhaps one of the uses for the income to the river district might be to make more use of LIDAR in monitoring the actual snowpack in our high country.

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