The recent cycle of snow we endured brought Denver back to a reasonable spot in terms of seasonal snow accumulation which is good news considering how the season started. The thing is, the recent storm cycle largely missed much of the high country, leaving them with mediocre snow totals over the past couple of weeks. January began in the mountains with above-average snowpack numbers, and thank goodness for that because due to the lack of snow, snowpack numbers are much lower than where they were a month ago…
By early January, some snow finally started to cover the Eastern Plains while at this point, the mountains were in the midst of getting hammered by several big snowstorms. Many mountain locations gained 3 to 8 feet of snow during the storm cycle over the holidays…
Between early January and early February, Denver (downtown) picked up quite a bit of snow leaving the area close to the average for the date in terms of seasonal snow. More on that below.
Overall, this season has been one of ebbs and flows. There have been periods of heavy snow region-wide, but there have also been bouts of dry and warm weather. When condensing all of this together, we can get an idea of where we stand compared to average…
Snowpack across Colorado is overall good, but these numbers are down a good bit from where they were a month ago when snowpack statewide was nearing 130% of normal. While we’ve lost a good deal of snow with the mild and dry weather in the mountains, the big storms we saw around the holidays gave us a great cushion. However, that cushion has been almost completely eradicated, so it’s about time for us to get some snow back up there.
The active weather we’ve had along the Front Range possibly gave the impression that the mountains were getting just as much snow but that was not the case. Most mountain locations saw near no snow over the last few weeks.
Click this link to read the report from the USGS. Here’s the abstract:
Climate change presents new and ongoing challenges to natural resource management. To confront these challenges effectively, managers need to develop proactive adaptation strategies to prepare for and deal with the effects of climate change. We engaged managers and biologists from several midwestern U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field stations to understand recent and future climate change effects, identify adaptation barriers and opportunities, and pilot an approach for integrating adaptation thinking into management planning. To start, three structured discussions informed our understanding of how managers currently deal with climate change effects, the strategies being implemented to cope, and the barriers that limit climate change adaptation efforts. We used these insights to develop a multiday virtual workshop geared toward identifying potential adaptation strategies for managed wetlands. First, we developed a conceptual model to visualize how management actions are used to meet habitat objectives within wetland management systems. Next, we discussed how climate change may affect management actions and objectives; we used this understanding of potential effects to spatially assess vulnerability of managed wetlands to climate change. Using a scenario planning approach, we incorporated multiple potential future conditions and identified effects and adaptation strategies that could be considered for each scenario. As a result, several adaptation strategies for managed wetlands under dry and wet future scenarios were identified that can be applied when developing site-specific adaptation plans. Based on our piloted approach, we determined it would be important to have an adaptation team composed of scientists and manag- ers to facilitate discussions, develop appropriate scenarios, and identify realistic adaptation options. We document the tools, findings, and adaptation thinking process taken to enhance adaptation efforts of managed wetlands. The adaptation think- ing process can be applied to advance adaptation efforts in other habitats, ecosystems, and site-specific land management.
The National Weather Service (NWS) is an agency of the United States federal government that is tasked with providing weather forecasts, warnings of hazardous weather, and other weather-related products to organizations and the public for the purposes of protection, safety, and general information. It is a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) branch of the Department of Commerce, and is headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland, within the Washington metropolitan area. The agency was known as the United States Weather Bureau from 1890 until it adopted its current name in 1970.
The NWS performs its primary task through a collection of national and regional centers, and 122 local Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs). As the NWS is an agency of the U.S. federal government, most of its products are in the public domain and available free of charge.
…Tinniswood and his team stumbled upon something even more surprising, and somewhat encouraging: roughly five acres of pristine greenery amid an otherwise burned-out area along Dixon Creek, a tributary in the Sprague River watershed. At the center were roughly eight active beaver dams. But this was more than a refuge from fire, which hundreds of beaver dams are known to have afforded to other riparian areas. Whereas fish seemed to have disappeared upstream of the Dixon Creek dam site, the downstream water was crystal clear—and trout were thriving as though the fire had never happened. The dams and ponds appeared to have altered the hydrology of the landscape around them, Tinniswood says. The beavers had effectively built something like a water treatment plant that staved off fire-related contamination.
Similar dam-driven refuges have been documented from Colorado to California, Idaho to Wyoming. Now, scientists are discovering that these green sanctuaries are part of a larger story of how beaver dams contribute to fire resilience. Along with deterring the flames themselves, beaver dams and ponds also function as filters for ash and other fire-produced pollutants that enter waterways—thus maintaining water quality for fish, other aquatic animals, and humans—emerging evidence suggests.
Tinniswood isn’t the first to observe that beaver dams protect streams from the toxic effects of postfire runoff. In the past several years, as climate change has ramped up wildfire frequency and intensity throughout the western U.S., similar accounts have come in after fires across the region. These range from the 2018 Sharps Fire in Idaho to the 2020 Lefthand Canyon and Cameron Peak fires in Colorado. Ecohydrologist Emily Fairfax of California State University Channel Islands, who personally made such observations in Colorado, says such findings support efforts to conserve and reintroduce beavers in the West, and to establish human-made structures that mimic beaver dams—a growing movement in riparian restoration…
The filtration provided by dams is crucial for the surrounding ecosystem. In the aftermath of wildfires, autumn rain and spring snowmelt wash sediment into waterways—including ash and other debris, and soil that vegetation normally would hold in place. This pulse of pollution can be deadlier to aquatic life than the fire itself, Tinniswood said. Just as humans struggle to breathe air that’s thick with smoke, fish can’t take in enough oxygen from water laden with sediment that their gills are not designed to block…
Beaver dams and ponds filter out sediment by slowing the rate at which water flows, says researcher Sarah Koenigsberg at the Beaver Coalition, an Oregon-based nonprofit organization that promotes conservation. When water lazily drifts through a beaver pond rather than rushing in a torrent down a narrow channel, suspended sediment has time to settle on the bottom where it poses less risk to fish and other aquatic animals. “You can almost think of it like a coffee filter,” Koenigsberg said.
Though Antero Reservoir might not hold the record for coldest temperature ever recorded in Colorado, it is known for a unique microclimate in the area that frequently results in the frigid temperatures.
Here’s a look into what’s at play:
Antero Reservoir is located in a high-elevation basin called South Park, which is a large valley at about 9,000 feet above sea level that’s surrounded by mountains on all sides, stretching for about 1,000 square miles. As a result, cold and heavy air slides down the sides of the surrounding mountains and into the open, flatter space below. This is a natural phenomenon known as ‘cold air draining.’
The ‘cold air draining’ isn’t the only way the unique geographic features around Antero Reservoir help keep the valley cold. Because Antero Reservoir is in the middle of a large and mostly flat plains area and is farther from the mountains that surround the South Park valley, air tends to stay relatively calm there. This lack of wind is something that can prevent warm air from being mixed in with cold air, with air likely to be more tumultuous when in close proximity to a slope.
Another factor in the cold temperatures that frequent Antero Reservoir and the greater South Park basin is something called ‘radiational cooling.’ This process takes place on calm and clear nights, when longwave radiation (and heat) is able to escape back into the atmosphere amid a lack of clouds, dropping temperatures in the absence of the sun.
It’s also worth noting that something called an ‘inversion’ is known to take place frequently in the area when clouds are present. Basically, the cold air in the valley settles beneath a cloud, while the hot air settles above the cloud, keeping the ground level frigid for as long as that cold air stays trapped. This cloud also tends to block the sun from sending more warmth to the earth’s surface. It’s sometimes easy to tell when this phenomenon is taking place, as the valley can appear to be filled with a thick fog.
In response to increasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled a decrease in the release from Navajo Dam from 400 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 350 cfs for Wednesday, February 9th, at 4:00 AM.
Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell). This release change is calculated as the minimum required to maintain the target baseflow.
The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.