Ski areas desperately need snow as #drought intensifies in Summit County — The Summit Daily #snowpack #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Upper Colorado River Basin drought monitor December 8, 2020.

From The Summit Daily (Taylor Sienkiewicz):

Despite some snowfall in the past week, Colorado’s drought continues to wear on.

The U.S. Drought Monitor places the southern half of the county in extreme drought while the northern half is in exceptional drought, the worst level on the scale.

The Drought Monitor lists large fires, extremely low reservoirs, increased water temperatures and worsening pasture conditions as impacts of an extreme drought. For exceptional drought, the anticipated impacts include widespread dust storms and topsoil removal as well as large agricultural and recreational economic losses.

Statewide precipitation water year 2021 through December 14, 2020 via the NRCS.

Precipitation has been below normal in Colorado since Oct. 1, and drought conditions have “expanded where long-term precipitation deficits continued to mount,” according to a Drought Monitor summary for Dec. 8. Statewide reservoir storage is below normal, and in the past six months, the southwest region of the country, which includes Colorado, experienced its hottest and driest June to November on record.

Upper Colorado River Basin snowpack December 14, 2020 via the NRCS.

Paul Schlatter, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Boulder, said Summit County has seen only 50% of its normal snowfall for this point in December.

Looking back to November, precipitation totals were on opposite ends of the spectrum depending location in the county, Schlatter wrote in an email. The northwest part of Summit County along the Blue River saw 25% to 33% of normal November precipitation while a whopping 125% of normal precipitation fell to the southwest. Precipitation was around normal along the Interstate 70 corridor, Schlatter said.

Westwide SNOTEL December 13, 2020 via the NRCS.

Breckenridge has recorded 54 inches of snowfall this season as of Monday, Dec. 14. By the same date in 2019, the resort had recorded 68 inches, according to On the Snow data. At Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, 35 more inches of snow was recorded by Dec. 14, 2019, compared with this year. Ski areas don’t begin recording their seasonlong snowfall totals until they are open, so lower totals this year also could be attributed to delayed openings. Breckenridge opened five days later this year than in 2019. A-Basin opened 29 days later than last year, in part due to a water shortage that impacted its ability to make snow.

A change in the weather pattern brought as much as a foot of snow to Summit County ski areas over the weekend, and more snow is on the way.

Leave a Reply