According to recent snow surveys conducted by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Colorado’s snowpack continues to track below the long-term average. While there was a series of wet storms that impacted southwestern Colorado during January, these storms bypassed most of the central and northern mountains. As a result, the latest statistics show slightly above average totals in the southwestern mountains, while snowpack percentages decreased elsewhere across the state, according to Allen Green, State Conservationist with the NRCS.
Colorado’s statewide snowpack was 86 percent of average as of February 1, and is only 73 percent of last year’s snowpack totals on this same date. The increased snowpack totals across southern Colorado were essentially offset by the decreases in percentage across the central and northern basins and has resulted in the same statewide snowpack percentage for two consecutive months. Once again, this month’s percentage is the lowest since 2003.
January’s storms followed a typical El Nino pattern which brought copious moisture totals inland from the California coast into Arizona and New Mexico. These storms brushed by southwestern Colorado, but did not benefit the basins to the north. The greatest increase in snowpack percentages was measured in the Rio Grande and the combined San Juan, Animas, Dolores, and San Miguel basins. These basins increased to above average percentages for the first time this year. Meanwhile, snowpack totals across the remainder of the state continued to stagnate with only minor increases during the latter half of January. This below average snowfall brought significant decreases to the snowpack percentages this month. The greatest decreases were measured in the South Platte basin, which decreased by 18 percentage points from the January 1 readings. Other basins seeing sizable decreases include the North Platte and Colorado basins, decreasing by 10 and 9 percentage points, respectively.
The snowpack data collected in these surveys will provide insight into what the state can expect for water supplies next spring and summer. As the winter progresses, the outlook for water supplies continues to point towards below normal runoff volumes, especially in the river basins across northern Colorado. “The outlook for runoff in the Upper Colorado, North Platte, Yampa, White and South Platte rivers continues to call for well below average flows”, said Green. Even in those southwestern basins that benefitted the most from the January storms, this year’s snowpack remains below that of last year’s readings on this date. At least reservoir storage across most of the state remains in near average condition. This additional storage may help alleviate at least some of the potential shortages these basins are facing this summer.
Source: Press Release (Posted 12:39p)