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Colorado: Statewide snowpack way above average

South Platte Basin snowpack at 315 percent of average

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Big snowpack lingers in Colorado Rockies. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Rivers in northern Colorado will continue to flow at high levels for several more weeks, water watchers said last week, releasing the results of the June 1 snowpack survey. While runoff season is well under way, the remaining snowpack in the Colorado River Basin is still 223 percent of median and 80 percent higher than last year’s snowpack on June 1.

The most snow lingers in the South Platte Basin, where the snowpack is at 311 percet of median. All basins north of the Gunnison are well above average, but the state’s southern basins have nearly melted out, continuing a run of drought conditions and heightening concerns about this summer’s fire season. The Rio Grande Basin and the San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel basins are at 59 and 39 percent of median, respectively. Continue reading

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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.

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

Colorado: March 1 survey shows healthy snowpack

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Big parts of the West are experiencing a moisture deficit this winter, with drought continuing in California.

Northwest flow favors Colorado’s northern mountains

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — For the third month in a row, Colorado snowpack is tracking above average. February, ended with the snowpack at 116 percent of median, with snowfall to-date for the water year (starting Oct. 1) at 133 percent of average.

A series of wet storm cycles pummeled the mountains during the month, with the bullseye over the north-central region, where some stations reported nearly double the average monthly snowfall. The no-Niño weather pattern has left a moisture deficit in the southwest part of the state, where the Upper Rio Grande and the combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins, are still experiencing below normal snow conditions for this time of year. 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

Climate: Colorado snowpack tracking near average

Above-average precipitation in October and November give state a headstart to the runoff season

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Colorado snowpack is tracking very near average for the winter so far.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The snowpack in nearly every river basin in Colorado is at or above normal, federal watchers said this week.

This year’s January 1 snowpack readings are at 103 percent of median statewide, according to Phyllis Ann Philipps, State Conservationist with the NRCS.

“This is a great start to the 2014 water year. As we saw in 2012 and 2013, early seasons deficits are difficult to make up later in the season … so being right where we should be this time of year gives us a head start compared to the past couple of years,” Philipps said. Continue reading

Global warming: Big changes projected for snowpack in low-elevation coastal mountain ranges

 Provided by the SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and ORBIMAGE

Low elevation coastal ranges could see dramatic snowpack changes in the next few decades as global temperatures continue to rise. Satellite image by the SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and ORBIMAGE.

Summer river flows will decrease as winter snowpack shrinks

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Low elevation maritime snowpacks around the world could be hit especially hard by global warming, according to scientists with Oregon State University, who are projecting a 56 percent decline in the amount of water stored in peak snowpack in the McKenzie River watershed of the Oregon Cascade Range.

The projections are based on a projected 3.6 degree Fahrenheit temperature increase, and highlight the special risks facing many low-elevation, mountainous regions where snow often falls near the freezing point. In such areas, just a modest temperature increase means the difference between snow and rain.

Winter snowpack in the Cascade Range provides much of the water for the populous Willamette Valley, significant changes in the hydrological regime could have significant social, environmental and economic implications, especially in summer when water demands peak. Continue reading

NASA mission targets more accurate snowpack data

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NASA Airborne Snow Observatory measurements of snow water equivalent (top image) and snow albedo, or reflectivity (bottom image) for the Tuolumne River Basin in California’s Sierra Nevada on April 21, 2013. The snow water equivalent measured the total water contained as snow in the basin on that date at 375 million cubic meters, or enough to fill the Rose Bowl about 1,180 times. The albedo map expresses the percentage of sunlight reflected back to space by the snow. The lower the albedo, the faster the snowmelt rate and runoff. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Aerial surveys with high-tech instruments will create detailed snow maps, yielding better runoff forecasts

FRISCO — Data from an ambitious new NASA aerial program could help resource managers get a jump on global warming, with more precise and timely snowpack measurements.

By Summit Voice

NASA’s Airborne Snow Observatory began it’s three-year demonstration mission in April, with weekly flights over the Tuolumne River Basin in California’s Sierra Nevada and monthly flights over Colorado’s Uncompahgre River Basin. Scientists involved in the program hope to start covering the entire Upper Colorado River Basin.

The data is already paying off for power companies and water managers, who can use real-time updates to allocate water resources more efficiently, for storage, irrigation and municipal supplies.

Most snowpack measurements are currently collected via ground-based surveys and from automated SNOTEL sites. Airborne mapping can cover more ground and gather data from areas without observation stations, resulting in more accurate forecasts. Continue reading

Colorado drought expected to persist through spring

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Drought persists across all of Colorado.

Reservoir storage reaching historic low levels

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Heading into April, Colorado water managers say snowfall the next few weeks would have to be more than twice or normal for the snowpack to reach the average peak snowpack, which typically happens April 8.

A big swath of the high country, including Summit and Eagle counties, is still classified as being in extreme drought.

After spending the last few months hoping for more snow, water providers now say they are preparing for continued drought conditions in spring and summer. Some towns have already announced strict outdoor watering restrictions staring early in spring. More information on watering restrictions is online at  www.COH2O.co. Continue reading

Colorado: Weekend snowstorm delivers

Mountains could see a few more inches Tuesday night

Northeast winds delivered good snow to Colorado's northeastern plains.

Northeast winds delivered good snow to Colorado’s northeastern plains.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A storm rolling across the state Saturday night delivered the goods, with every ski area in Colorado reporting new snow Sunday morning. Totals (24 hour) ranged from 11 inches at Monarch to six inches and Wolf Creek and Steamboat, at opposite ends of the state. Most resorts in between also reported about a half a foot of new snow Sunday morning. Continue reading

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