State snowpack still headed to well-below average year

Mount Sneffels, at 14,450 feet, is just left of center in this view of the San Juan Mountains looking south from Dallas Divide. After recent storms, the statewide snowpack was 72 percent of average on Feb. 1, compared with 70 percent on Jan. 1.

Late-January precipitation in Colorado salvaged the month, but statewide snowpack budged little from where it was at the year’s start, the Natural Resources Conservation Service said this week.

Mostly dry, high-pressure weather systems persisted for much of the month before the arrival of a storm that particularly benefited southwest Colorado, the agency said. As of the start of this month, the statewide snowpack was 72 percent of normal and 90 percent of the same time last year, which ended with snowpack well below average.

Statewide snowpack had been 70 percent of average Jan. 1.

The recent moisture boosted snowpack in the combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins to 88 percent of normal, up from 70 percent a month earlier. The Rio Grande and Arkansas basins also saw gains in snowpack.

“With the storms focused mainly in the south, the northern portion of the state saw snowpack percentages remain constant or decline during January,” the NRCS said.

The South Platte fared the worst, dropping 13 percent, to 54 percent of normal, the state’s lowest.

The Colorado basin was at 67 percent at the month’s start, which is 89 percent of the same time last year. The Gunnison started the month at 75 percent of average.

“This recent snowpack data directly reflects what the state can expect for surface water supplies this coming spring and summer,” the NRCS said in its release. “Current streamflow forecasts continue to point towards well below normal runoff volumes in all the major river basins in Colorado. Adding to this bleak water supply outlook, reservoir storage across the state remains below average. Unless Colorado sees weather patterns that bring above average snowfall and precipitation to the state over these next few months, it is not likely that there will be much relief from the current drought conditions.”

Statewide reservoir storage is at 70 percent of average, and 63 percent of the same time last year. The Colorado basin’s storage is at 67 percent of average and 59 percent of last year. For the Gunnison, those figures are 72 and 61 percent, respectively. The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins are still at just two-thirds of average.

The National Integrated Drought Information System said in its weekly report, “Though recent beneficial snowfall has accumulated in the higher elevations of southwest (Colorado), benefits may only be short term. These areas are still running large precipitation deficits from last year.”

which are not realized in water year statistics.”


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