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Colorado: A tale of two snowpacks

This is an unfiltered iPhone shot, showing that, if the light is good to begin with, you don't need a lot of technical tricks.

A deep snowpack in late March along Tenmile Creek, in Frisco, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

Snowpack bountiful north, a little sparse in the San Juans

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A persistent weather pattern across the U.S. in March once again benefited Colorado’s northern and central mountains, as a steady stream of storms brushed down the northern Rockies before roaring into the Midwest.

In the northwestern part of the state, the snowpack increased in the Colorado and Yampa river basins. The South Platte River Basin is at a near-record level. similar to 2011, according to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, which released results of the all-important April 1 snowpack survey.

By contrast, southwestern Colorado is on the eastern edge of a large area that’s very dry, including near-record drought in California. The snow survey showed  snowpack conditions across the southern mountains tracking below normal for the third consecutive month.

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Near-record January snow in Breckenridge

Pre-dawn, post snowstorm glow on Buffalo Mountain, above Silverthorne, Colorado.

Pre-dawn, post snowstorm glow on Buffalo Mountain, above Silverthorne, Colorado.

Blue River Basin snowpack well above average for the season

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The Blue River Basin snowpack is in good shape at midwinter, with above average snowfall during all four months of the 2014 water year, which started Oct. 1, 2013.

Last month really helped bolster the totals, as Breckenridge weather-watcher Rick Bly reported the third-snowiest January on record, dating back to the late 1800s. Bly tallied 60.5 inches at his weather station, where he tracks precipitation for the National Weather Service. According to Bly, only January 1899 (80.4 inches) and 1996 (71.8 inches) were snowier. Continue reading

Colorado snowpack lingering in the northern mountains

Southern part of state still gripped by drought

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Colorado’s June 5 snowpack map is a patchwork quilt of contrasts.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Springtime in the Rockies was a tale of two states in Colorado. The snowpack rebounded in the northern mountains, which benefited from a series of wet spring storms, but the southern half of the state was dry and warm, with serious drought conditions persisting in the Rio Grande, as as the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins.

This year’s statewide snowpack peaked April 21, several weeks later than the average date, and cool weather helped further delay snowmelt across the higher elevations, resulting in a statewide June 1 snowpack  at 92 percent of median, according to Randy Randall, acting State Conservationist with the NRCS.

“This respectable percentage is due mainly to the generous amount of snow that remains across northern Colorado. In contrast, the snowpack in the southern portion of the state is nearly depleted even at the higher elevations,” Randall said. Continue reading

Colorado River Basin snowpack surges surges in April

Near-normal runoff expected in some headwaters streams

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The Colorado River Basin snowpack zoomed upward in April.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Spring storms that repeatedly targeted the north-central mountains of Colorado in April help bring the snowpack to near normal in a few river basins. The May 1 snow survey showed the statewide snowpack climbing up to 83 percent of average for the date, the highest level of the year.

“Those wet storms really improved our water supplies, especially along the Front Range and Upper Colorado River basin”, said Phyllis Ann Phillips, state conservationist with the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service. Some headwaters of the Colorado and South Platte  River basins may see runoff near to slightly above average, the NRCS said in the monthly snowpack update. Continue reading

Summit County: March delivers moisture surplus

Season-long snow totals still lagging

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The Colorado Climate Center maintains graphs that show average annual temperatures for individual weather stations dating back to the start of record-keeping.

Plenty of fresh snow graced the Gore Range during March. Bob Berwyn photo.

Plenty of fresh snow graced the Gore Range during March. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — While some Colorado residents may be yearning for daffodils, snow lovers are probably thinking better late than never, as March delivered a moisture surplus — the first month of the winter with snowfall totals significantly above average.

In Breckenridge, National Weather Service observer Rick Bly measured 34.3 inches of snow at his downtown weather station, nearly 10 inches more than the historic average of 25.5 inches. Similarly, Denver Water staffers in Dillon measured 30 inches of snow in March. The long-term average is 22 inches. Continue reading

Colorado snowpack inches upward in March

Some drought-hit areas stay dry

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Summit County, western Eagle County and parts of Colorado’s northeastern plains saw well above-average precipitation in March, but much of the rest of the state was very dry.

Drought conditions persist at some level across all of Colorado as of late March.

Drought conditions persist at some level across all of Colorado as of late March.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado’s snowpack continues to inch upward and recently passed last year’s level, but the state’s water woes aren’t over, according to the results of the latest Natural Resources Conservation Service snow survey.

The good news is that the snowpack hasn’t quite peaked yet, according to the April 1 compilation of statistics from automated SNOTEL sites and manual survey results. The bad news is that soil moisture in many parts of the state is still at drought levels, and reservoir levels are well below average and lagging behind last year.

While March snowfall was above average in some parts of Colorado, the statewide snowpack increased by only one percent during the month, from 73 percent of median on March 1, to 74 percent of median on April 1. Continue reading

Colorado: February storms fail to boost snowpack

Wet March needed to ease drought

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None of Colorado’s river basins have reached average snowpack levels this winter.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — It’s been a tale of two winters in Colorado, where enough snow has fallen at just the right times to prevent a complete meltdown of the ski industry, but not nearly enough to recover from last year’s drought.

“Unless Colorado sees weather patterns in March that bring well above average snowfall and precipitation to the state, there will not be much relief from the current drought conditions,” the USDA natural resources conservation service wrote in its monthly snowpack update. Continue reading

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