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Sen. Udall helps secure funding for snow surveys


NRCS snow surveys help water managers plan ahead.

Temporary budget fix ensures program through August 2014

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — For decades, hydrologists have been tromping through the high country of Colorado and around the West to make detailed snowpack measurements. Together with data from automated SNOTEL sites and other tools, the monthly snow-course readings help water managers develop accurate projections of spring stream flows, and  how much water will be available for irrigation and storage.

The information is critical in arid regions, which rely on the winter snowpack as the ultimate reservoir. Federal budget cuts have threatened the program, raising concern among western resource managers, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week that it has found a way to maintain funding for the Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting Program — at least through the end of Aug. 2014. Continue reading

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Colorado snowpack lingering in the northern mountains

Southern part of state still gripped by drought


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 snowpack inches upward in March

Some drought-hit areas stay dry


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

Summit County: Snowpack drops to near half of average

Temperature anomalies in Colorado from late November through late December.

Southeast Colorado sets December snowfall records

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Snowpack in the Blue River Basin, encompassing all of Summit County’s rivers and streams, is quickly dropping down toward just half of the long-term average for early January.

According to the January 6 readings from automated SNOTEL sites around the basin, the snowpack at Copper Mountain is just 55 percent of average, with only 3.4 inches of snow-water equivalent, compared to the average 6.2 inches for this date. The Copper SNOTEL site is located at 10,550 feet.

Precipitation for the  weather year-to-date (starting Oct. 1) is a little closer to average, at 68 percent, with 5.2 inches compared to the average 7.7 inches, but the gap between the precipitation total and the snowpack total reflects the warm and dry weather which has eaten away at the snowpack. Continue reading

Weather: December one of the driest in recent years

Front Range moisture helps ease demand for West Slope water

The snowpack across much of northwest Colorado has dipped below 70 percent of average.

By Bob Berwyn

The eight to 14-day outlook from the Climate Prediction Center.

SUMMIT COUNTY — The lack of snowfall in the high country is starting to show in the snowpack readings across the western part of the state, where readings have fallen below 70 percent of average — about 67 percent in the Colorado River Basin, which means that the snowpack is about one-third less than the average for this time of year.

In a strange twist on the La Niña weather pattern, the Front Range snowpack is above average, which doesn’t directly help the spring runoff on which much of the state depends. But good winter moisture on the Front Range does help ease demand for stored water, at least early in the season.

If there’s good news, it’s the above-average snowpack in the Upper Rio Grande Basin in south-central Colorado, where moisture hasn’t been over-abundant the past few years. A full list of SNOTEL site snow depth readings in online here. Continue reading

Colorado: June 1 snowpack at record levels nearly statewide

Snowpack across much of Colorado was at record levels as of June 1.

Runoff in some northwestern river basins expected to be two to three times of average

By Summit Voice

Colorado’s latest snowpack data, compiled by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, shows the profound impact that a cool and wet May can have on water supplies, in terms of both timing and quantity.

The forecasted runoff throughout the Yampa, White, Colorado, North and South Platte river basins this year is well above average, and in some cases will be two to three times higher than the average for the April through July forecast period.

“There remains a tremendous amount of snow across northern Colorado. A gradual and even meltout would help minimize impacts”, said state conservationist Allen Green. Continue reading

Summit County weather: More snow possible

Wilderness Sports sponsors the Summit Voice weatherblog. Click to visit Wilderness Sports online.

Unsettled pattern to persist through mid-week

Even a roadside mud puddle looks good with some fresh snow. May 21. Frisco, Colorado.

Readings from automated SNOTEL sites show a snowpack that's twice average for this date across large parts of the West.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Saturday’s storm dropped another 13 inches of snow at A-Basin, pushing the base back up over 100 inches with a 48-hour snow total of 20 inches — and it looks like Ullr isn’t quite done with us yet.

Showery weather is forecast to persist through mid-week, with another chance for significant snow early in the coming week, through with warmer temperatures, most of the accumulations will be confined to the higher elevations.

Specifically, there’s enough moisture in the airmass over the high country to fuel convective showers and thunder storms Sunday afternoon, when the high temperature will reach about 50 degrees, 9 degrees below the average. The record high for the date is 74 degrees, set just a few years ago, in 2005. And before we feel to sorry for ourselves, consider that the record low for the date (in Frisco) is zero, set way back in 1933. Continue reading

Colorado: Snowpack records set in northern mountains

Tower SNOTEL site busts a mark set in 1978

Northern Colorado experienced banner snowfall during the winter, leading to projections for healthy runoff.

A rotary plow and dumptruck work in tandem in Frisco, Colorado to clear snow from downtown in this file photo from December 2010.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —  The spring snowpack across northern Colorado continued to grow during April, with the automated Tower SNOTEL site, near Buffalo Pass in the Park Range, setting an all-time record for water equivalent. As of May 1, the sensors at the Tower site measured 200 inches of snow on the ground, which would melt out to 72.6 inches of water, surpassing the previous record of 71.1 inches set back in 1978.

According to Natural Resources Conservation Service, that measurement also sets an all-time state record for total snowpack at any individual site in Colorado. Record snowpack levels were also recored at other sites around the Yampa, Colorado and the North and South Platte river basins.

“Even many of the old-timers have never seen some of the depths measured across northern Colorado this month”, said NRCS state conservationist Allen Green.

Basin Snowpack
% of Average
% of Last Year
Reservoir Storage
% of Average
Reservoir Storage
% of Last Year
Gunnison 139 195 111 86
Colorado 151 222 107 93
South Platte 150 186 98 92
North Platte 165 198
Yampa/White 165 225 102 88
Arkansas 112 126 86 79
Rio Grande 72 80 79 88
San Miguel, Dolores, Animas & San Juan 93 121 109 109
Statewide 135 175 101 91

Continue reading

Weatherblog: Wintry weekend, snowpack still growing

A map showing the Colorado snowpack on April 29, 2011.

Amazing snowpack readings around much of Colorado.

4 to 8 inches of snow possible by Saturday morning

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — After a short taste of spring, it looks like winter will make a comeback over the weekend as a strong cold front dives southeast out of Utah and sweep across Colorado, bringing a chance for several inches of snow. Much of the high country is under a winter weather advisory through mid-day Saturday, with 4 to 8 inches of snow possible in the northern mountains.Freeze warnings have been issued for the western valleys of Colorado. Moderate to heavy snow could fall with the passage of the front Friday afternoon and evening, with showers lingering into the first part of the weekend.

The warmest temperatures of the weekend are likely Friday morning. The front will drop readings by as much as 20 degrees, with forecast highs below freezing (about 29 degrees) both Saturday and Sunday, then rebounding to reach the mid-40s again by the middle of next week. Those readings are well below normal, with average high in Frisco for April 30 at 51 degrees. The record high is 70 degrees, set in 1943, and the record low is 5 degrees, set in 1918. Continue reading

Weatherblog: Widespread snow!

A National Weather Service graphic shows a stationary front draped parallel to the I-70 corridor.

Freshies on closing day at Breckenridge and Copper Mountain

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The 2010 — 2011 ski season will end the way it began at Breckenridge and Copper Mountain, as much of the Colorado high country wakes up to  winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories. According to the National Weather Service, 5 to 10 inches of snow could pile up across some of the northern and central mountains by Sunday morning — great powder conditions on closing day.

Not all Colorado ski areas are closing down. A-Basin and Loveland remain open with the deepest snowpack of the season. A-Basin has picked up a few inches of new snow almost every day this week and Loveland reported passing the 500-inch mark for the season a few days ago. A-Basin reported 360 inches of snow for the season early last week and an 89-inch base as of Saturday morning.

Saturday’s snow is being fueled by a nearly stationary polar frontal zone that’s been wobbling north and south the past few days. A Pacific disturbance sliding eastward along the front will provide lift and intensify snowfall at the higher elevations throughout the day. Some areas could see periods of heavy snow, including a chance of thunder-snow. Yet another, and slightly stronger disturbance will move through Sunday, with a continued chance of snow. Under a generally southwest flow, the San Juans and West Elks could see the heaviest snowfall, with accumulations of 10 to 20 inches possible. Continue reading


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