Morning photo: Sunday set

Summit spring


FRISCO —Sweet springtime in the Colorado Rockies. Snow on the high peaks, rivers swelling with runoff, fields and aspen groves greening up in the lengthening days and happy bluebirds! What could be better?

Climate: Early meltdown for Colorado snowpack

April 1 snowpack the 3d-lowest in 30 years; state preps for low runoff and summer streamflows

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Colorado snowpack started to decline in March, a month ahead of schedule.

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Colorado experienced widespread warmth in March.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Colorado water users need to prepare for below-average spring and summer runoff and streamflow based on the all-important April 1 snow survey, which showed a startling drop in the state’s snowpack since early March.

After tallying readings from automated SNOTEL sites and manual snow surveys, the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service said the water content of the snowpack is just 64 percent of average, down from 89 percent at the beginning of March.

“This is showtime when it comes to hydrological cycle in Colorado,” said state climatologist Nolan Doesken, referring to the fact that the state’s snowpack usually increases significantly in March and April. Continue reading

NASA tracks the Rocky Mountain global warming meltdown

Earlier snowmelt has been especially obvious in most of the mountain ranges of the western United States

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new NASA study focusing on northwestern Wyoming reinforces earlier research showing that global warming is already having a huge effect on the timing of snowmelt in the Rocky Mountains. Read the full NASA post, with more maps and graphs, here.

Taking a close look at the Wind River Range showed that the  snowmelt season in that area now ends about 16 days earlier than it did from the 1970s through the 1990s, using images and data from NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. They also studied ground-based stream discharge measurements and daily temperature and precipitation records. Continue reading

Global warming could reduce Sierra Nevada runoff by 25 percent

Increased plant growth projected to use more water

In the lengthening nights of October, the Snake River starts to freeze.

Global warming is likely to have a big impact on mountain runoff. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Forests and brush moving up mountainsides as the climate warms could take a big gulp from streams and rivers, potentially cutting runoff by as much as 25 percent by the end of the century. Warmer temperatures will accelerate plant growth, triggering more water absorption and evaporation, according to researchers with  UC Irvine and UC Merced.

“Scientists have recognized for a while that something like this was possible, but no one had been able to quantify whether it could be a big effect,” said UCI professor of Earth system science Michael L. Goulden. “It’s clear that this could be a big effect of climate warming and that water managers need to recognize and plan for the possibility of increased water losses from forest evaporation.”

According to the researchers, runoff from mountain ranges is vulnerable to temperature hikes that lengthen growing seasons and result in more vegetation growth at high elevations, according to the study, to be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Continue reading

Climate: How hot will it get in Colorado?

State releases draft climate change report, comments wanted

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How warm will it get in Colorado?

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Climate experts say it’s about to get warmer —probably much warmer — in Colorado. A draft state climate report released this week for public comment shows that Colorado has warmed by 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 50 years. By the middle of this century, summer temperatures will be higher than in all but the hottest years, with another 2.5 to 5.5 degrees of warming expected. Continue reading

Climate: Storms bolster Colorado snowpack

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Colorado’s snowpack is above average as of Feb. 1.

Feb. 1 snow survey results suggest decent spring runoff for most of the state

By Summit  Voice

FRISCO — Colorado’s snowpack surged to above average in late January thanks to a strong storm that brought snow statewide, federal water experts said last week. The Feb. 1 snow survey showed the average snowpack across the Colorado mountains at 107 percent of average, and 152 percent above last year’s Feb. 1 reading.

As of Feb. 1, only the Upper Rio Grande (82 percent) and San Juan (79 percent) basins in the southern part of the state were below average, according to the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. 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

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