#Snowpack reversal (December 28, 2021): 10 days makes huge difference in Colorado snowpack — Out There #Colorado

Colorado snowpack basin-filled map December 27, 2021 via the NRCS.

From Out There Colorado (Spencer McKee):

Powderhounds around the state are likely rejoicing after a major snowstorm moved through Colorado over the long holiday weekend, dropping feet of snow in some areas. Following several dry weeks that dropped Colorado’s snowpack far behind the 20-year median, widespread accumulation has resulted in a lack of snow no longer being the case.

As of December 27, statewide snowpack is at 95 percent of the to-date median. Ten days ago, statewide snowpack was at just 78 percent of the to-date median, and days before that, it was around 50 percent.

There’s no doubt about it that Colorado’s snowpack has made significant gains over the past couple of weeks, with more big snow on the way over the next couple of days.

Perhaps even more spectacular is the snowpack boost that’s been seen in the southwest region of the state.

The San Miguel-Dolores-Animas-San Juan river basin in southwest Colorado jumped from around 84 percent of the to-date median snowpack to 107 percent of the to-date median snowpack over the last ten days, having increased to 84 percent from about 30 percent of the to-date median snowpack just days before that.

The Gunnison River Basin is currently the farthest ahead of the 20-year median to-date snowpack, at 118 percent of what this region typically sees by December 27. This region includes spots like Crested Butte.

The lowest snowpack total is currently found in the Upper Rio Grande Basin, in southern Colorado, at 78 percent of the 20-year median. The Arkansas River Basin, in southeast Colorado, is close behind at 80 percent.

Colorado Drought Monitor map December 21, 2021.

The recent snow will likely help Colorado’s drought situation, with 99.8 percent of the state currently experiencing drought of some level as of December 21, when the most recent report was released by the US Drought Monitor. Roughly 22 percent of the state is experiencing ‘extreme’ drought, the third of four stages, compared to roughly 49 percent this time last year. None of the state is currently experiencing the most intense form of drought – ‘exceptional’ drought. This is a huge positive compared to last year, when more than 27 percent of the state was experiencing this level of drought nearing the end of December.

From The Durango Herald (Aedan Hannon):

The snowpack as of Monday in Southwest Colorado, measured by the snow’s water content, was at 112% of the most recent 30-year average for the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins and 120% of Gunnison Basin’s average, according to the National Resources Conservation Service.

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map December 27, 2021 via the NRCS.

From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

The waves of snowstorms that rolled over the Aspen-area between Thursday and Sunday brought the kind of snow that can make a dent in the ongoing drought.

The heavy, wet snow boosted the snow pack by 25% near the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River, 32% at the headwaters of the Fryingpan River and 64% at the headwaters of the Crystal River in just four days…

The snowpack is at about 44% of the median peak value. It typically doesn’t hit 50% of peak until late January…

Forecasters at the Colorado Avalanche Information Center marveled on Christmas Day about the high moisture content of the snow that fell on Schofield Pass (located between Marble and Crested Butte) and elsewhere in the central mountains during this extended storm cycle…

Long bouts of snow are nothing new in the Rocky Mountains but consecutive days of powder are still reason to celebrate. According to Aspen Skiing Co.’s snow reports, Aspen Highlands reaped 42 inches of snow from Dec. 23 through 5 a.m. Monday morning. Snowmass pulled in 29 inches while Aspen Mountain was right behind at 27 inches. Buttermilk managed an impressive 22 inches over that stretch.

The automated Snotel site on Independence Pass shot up from 80% of median on Dec. 23 to 100% of median on Monday. The NRCS uses a 30-year median between 1990 and 2020.

The snowpack at the Ivanhoe site on the upper Fryingpan improved from 96% of median on Dec. 23 to 127% on Monday.

The biggest gainer was Schofield Pass, which soared from just 82% of median on Dec. 23 to 135% on Monday.

What a light #snowpack could mean for #Pueblo — The Pueblo Chieftain

Colorado snowpack basin-filled map December 27, 2021 via the NRCS.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Lacey Latch):

The statewide snowpack has grown over the past month due to winter storms across the western slope, but much of southeast Colorado has remained without significant precipitation, leaving the mountains with very little snow at the start of the winter.

Right now, according to data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service Colorado, the Arkansas River Basin has only measured 76% of the snowpack average for this time of year. In contrast, the Gunnison River Basin to the west has already reached 118% of that area’s average snowpack. If this continues, the limited runoff could contribute to harsher conditions when the seasons change, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Wankowski. These conditions are due in large part to the climate pattern La Niña, Wankowski said, which…impacts the weather around the world and in the United States every few years…

Tope of Pike’s Peak looking northeast December 28, 2021. Credit: The City of Colorado Springs

So far, Colorado has seen between two and four feet of snow across Wolf Creek Pass and other areas throughout December, which has helped to boost the statewide snowpack, he said. “But for Southeast Colorado, the Arkansas River Basin is lagging. And this is pretty typical for especially the southeastern mountains,” he said. “The headwaters of the Arkansas River in the last month have been doing well but as you can tell … there’s no snow on Pike’s Peak, or very little.” This low snowpack level in southeastern Colorado is normal for a La Niña year, Wankowski said, but it still carries with it some potential consequences. And while the state as a whole is catching up in terms of the annual snowpack, the coming months will be critical in determining what the runoff will look like for the southeastern part of the state. “We need to continue this onslaught of snow,” Wankowski said. “If we don’t see much in the southeast mountains, which again is pretty typical for La Niña, we will be in danger of seeing drought continue to grow and get worse as well as the potential for spring and summer wildfires.”

Snow Telemetry (SNOTEL) Network — NRCS #snowpack

SNOTEL automated data collection site. Credit: NRCS

From the NRCS:

The SNOTEL network is composed of over 900 automated data collection sites located in remote, high-elevation mountain watersheds in the western U.S. They are used to monitor snowpack, precipitation, temperature, and other climatic conditions. The data collected at SNOTEL sites are transmitted to a central database, called the Water and Climate Information System, where they are used to make water supply forecasts.

SNOTEL sites are designed to operate unattended and without maintenance for a year or more. A typical SNOTEL remote site consists of measuring devices and sensors, an equipment shelter for the radio telemetry equipment, and an antenna that also supports the solar panels used to keep batteries charged.

A standard sensor configuration includes a snow pillow, a storage precipitation gage, and a temperature sensor. The snow pillow measures how much water is in the snowpack by weighing the snow with a pressure transducer. Automatic measuring devices in the shelter house convert the weight of the snow into an electrical reading of the snow’s water equivalent — that is, the actual amount of water in a given volume of snow.

SNOTEL stations also collect data on snow depth, all-season precipitation accumulation, and air temperature with daily maximums, minimums, and averages. Many enhanced SNOTEL sites are equipped to take soil moisture and soil temperature measurements at various depths, as well as solar radiation, wind speed, and relative humidity. The configuration at each site is tailored to the physical conditions, the climate, and the specific requirements of the data users.

The data collected at SNOTEL sites are generally reported multiple times per day, with some sensors reporting hourly. More on SNOTEL sensors.

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map December 27, 2021 via the NRCS.

Funding from Great Outdoors #Colorado and @cwcb_dnr advances private lands #conservation planning: Keep It Colorado’s statewide planning effort will launch this spring — Keep It Colorado

Paulson Ranch | Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust

Here’s the release from Keep It Colorado:

The nonprofit conservation coalition Keep It Colorado has received $250,000 in funding to support the development of its Statewide Private Lands Conservation Plan. Investments include $175,000 from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO)’s Resilient Communities Program – which funds one-time, immediate needs or opportunities that have emerged in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic – and $75,000 from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB)’s Water Plan Grant program.

The Statewide Private Lands Conservation Plan is a collaborative plan that Keep It Colorado is developing with the input of land trusts and partners to create a unified vision for the future of private lands conservation in Colorado. It will provide a set of concrete objectives and strategies, with aims to identify urgent areas for protection and create a roadmap for on-the-ground conservation the private lands conservation community wants to achieve in the next 10 years.

Because 60 percent of lands in Colorado are privately owned, they account for a significant portion of the state that needs protection and are a primary focus of Keep It Colorado’s coalition work. Prioritizing the conservation interests and needs of private landowners, including the protection of working lands, wildlife habitat and iconic viewsheds, Keep It Colorado’s plan will be a coordinated effort to ensure that those lands feature prominently in a broader statewide conservation framework. For example, there are growing calls to meet 30×30 (a goal to conserve 30 percent of lands and waters by 2030), and many organizations are creating or updating plans around water, wildlife and recreation. These include the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Colorado Water Plan, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s comprehensive statewide recreation and conservation plan.

Keep It Colorado conceived of the plan in 2019 when it recognized a gap in statewide planning around the protection of private lands. “There is a long history of strong private lands conservation across the state. But those efforts are often fragmented and not based on a set of common strategies that prioritize the protection and connectivity of private lands at a statewide level,” said Melissa Daruna, executive director of Keep It Colorado. “This generous funding demonstrates GOCO’s and CWCB’s commitment to increasing the scale and pace of conservation and protecting a substantial percentage of Colorado’s natural resources in a coordinated and thoughtful way.”

“GOCO couldn’t be more eager to learn the results of this planning process,” said GOCO Executive Director Chris Castilian. “Each year GOCO has the privilege to invest a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds in land protection work, and our funding strategy supports projects by our trusted partners in the conservation space across Colorado communities. We’re grateful to Keep It Colorado for taking the leading role in this important effort to elevate statewide priorities that will guide us all in achieving the greatest outcomes.”

The Nature Conservancy is a key partner and will provide data and the science through its Resilient and Connected Networks (RCN) tool. RCN will identify and prioritize the landscapes and the number of acres critical to conserve at both the state and local community levels, with goals to ensure connectivity of large natural areas; promote health and survival of wildlife and fish; and enable Colorado communities to prepare for and adapt to change. RCN will also be a tool to encourage collaborative projects.

GOCO’s and CWCB’s funding will be applied toward development of the plan; training and implementation of The Nature Conservancy’s RCN tool; diverse stakeholder engagement across Colorado; public relations and a plan release; and facilitation of activities. Keep It Colorado seeks additional funds for implementation of projects.

Keep It Colorado received additional GOCO Resilient Communities Program funding for a transaction cost assistance program…Several Keep It Colorado coalition members also received Resilient Communities Program funding for a variety of open space initiatives, including Aspen Valley Land Trust, Central Colorado Conservancy, Colorado West Land Trust, La Plata Open Space Conservancy, Montezuma Land Conservancy, Trust for Public Land, City of Boulder, City of Loveland and Eagle County. A complete list of awarded projects is available on GOCO’s website.

Pond on the Garcia Ranch via Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust

About Keep It Colorado

Keep It Colorado serves as a unified voice for conservation organizations focused on private lands conservation, and does so by bringing together land trusts, public agencies and conservation champions around a vision to create a Colorado where people, lands, waters and wildlife thrive. Keep It Colorado advocates for sound public policy; provides connection and collaboration opportunities for conservation partners; offers a forum to address emerging conservation issues and opportunities; pursues sustainable funding and programmatic tools and solutions; and works to advance a culture of conservation in Colorado. Learn more at http://www.keepitco.org.