Snowpack dwindles to 14 percent of average in Colorado River Basin
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — April brought no relief from dry conditions in Summit County, with both official National Weather Service sites reporting below average precipitation for the month, and well above average temperatures in Dillon, where Denver Water employees take daily readings.
April snowfall in Breckenridge totaled 16.2 inches, 66 percent of the long-term average 24.7 inches, according to weather watcher Rick Bly. For the year-to-date, Bly has tallied 118.2 inches, about 75 percent of the long-term average (151.7 inches).
April snow-water equivalent in the snow at Breckenridge was 1.46 inches compared to the average 2.1 inches. For the year-to-date, the snow-water equivalent is 9.56 inches, compared to the average 11.53 inches.
Based on those readings, you’d think we’d be in better shape for runoff, but a wickedly warm March withered the snowpack to levels not seen since the 2002 drought, characterized at the time as a 500-year event.
Bly said that, with several months of the water year to go, it’s not inconceivable that the readings could catch up to normal with some good monsoon moisture this summer.
Average May snowfall in Breckenridge is 10.9 inches, with a record 43.9 inches reported way back in 1895. The record-low snowfall record was zero inches, set in 1994. Precipitation (melted snow and rain) has ranged from a high of 5.89 inches in 1889 all the way down to just .12 inches.
At the Dillon weather site, snowfall totaled 11.5 inches for April, well below the average 18.1 inches. The snow-water equivalent was 1.06 inches, compared to the average of 1.61 inches. Snowfall has been below average at the Dillon site every month since October.
For the second month in row, temperatures at Dillon ran far above the historic norm. The average daily maximum temperature was 54.8 degrees, more than 7 degrees warmer than the average 47.7 degrees.
Similarly, the averaged daily low temp of 22.2 degrees for April 2012 was nearly 5 degrees warmer than the average (17.3 degrees), with records dating back to 1909.