Colorado snowpack off to a poor start

Precipitation lagging behind last year

Last year’s line is green; this year’s is orange.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — It’s still early in the season, but so far, this year’s snow pack in Colorado is running behind even last year’s meager totals for this time of year, as the little bit of snow that fell last month melted away some of the SNOTEL sites.

The Copper Mountain SNOTEL site was reporting 4 inches of snow a few weeks ago, but is now back to zero, for example, and numerous other SNOTEL sites are also reporting at zero.

Exceptions are in the far north, where the Tower site is reporting 5 inches on the ground, and the Never Summer site, leading the state with 10 inches. Grizzly Peak is reporting 3 inches, while Fremont Pass is at 4 inches.

The snow drought is particularly pronounced in the Southwestern mountains, although that could change dramatically this weekend, with a storm expected to drop 12 to 18 inches of snow — and perhaps more across the most favored high elevations of the San Juans.

The Silverton-based Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies reported only 1.26 inches of October precipitation at the high-elevation Senator Beck site, about 30 percent of the average amount for that location, going back to 2004.

Last winter, the same site reported three significant winter storms by the end of October. Data on storms is online at the center’s storm web page.

The outlook for the rest of the winter is for equal chances of above-average, below-average or near-normal snowfall, according to the NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Years with a weak El Niño or neutral Pacific Ocean conditions show a slight trend toward favoring the northern mountains with snow in mid-winter and the southern mountains in late winter and spring, according to Grand Junction-based National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Ramey, who offered a winter outlook at the annual Colorado Snow and Avalanche Workshop in Leadville.






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