Colorado: Snowpack shrinking

Mainly warm and dry conditions forecast for the coming week

NOAA’s snow-depth map shows how far north the storm track has stayed, with plenty of snow cover across the Pacific Northwest (especially western Canada) and the northern Rockies from Wyoming through Montana and Idaho.

FRISCO — In a concerning sign for water managers, Colorado’s snowpack is shrinking at a time of year when it usually grows steadily. Through late November, the statewide snowpack is tracking well below the historic average and just barely above the all-time minimum. Late fall and early winter snow tends to freeze into a solid base layer that melts slowly in the spring to sustain spring runoff. Below-average snowpack this time of year could foreshadow a second subsequent below-average runoff season, with little relief for the state’s depleted rivers and reservoirs.

Colorado’s statewide snowpack is just half of average for this time of year.

The SNOTEL site at Vail Mountain, (10,300 feet) for example, has dwindled to just 1 inch of snow on the ground, with Copper Mountain (10,500) at 3 inches, and Grizzly Peak, (11,100 feet) near Arapahoe Basin, at just 5 inches.

It’s still early in the water year, but the orange line shows how the snow pack is trending well below the historic average level for this time of year.

Much of the West has been dry, with the exception of western Washington, a few spots in the far northern Rockies and the Sierra Nevada of California. New Mexico and Arizona have also continued dry, extending the drought conditions that have persisted for a couple of years, and with no El Niño, that trend could continue.

Red and orange on this plot map signify snowpack that’s 25 to 75 percent below average.

The medium range outlook offers some hope of improvement, with a potential weather shift toward the end of the coming week bringing at least the chance of some snow to help stem the loss of snow, through there are no predictions for a major storm that might help us catch up in any significant way.

Colorado is at the bulls eye of a huge, coast-to-coast area where temps are expected to be above average the next six to 10 days.
In the six to 10-day precipitation outlook, Western Colorado looks to be on the cusp of a wet zone zone extending inward from the Pacific.

For now, the overall outlook from the National Weather Service remains dry for the next seven days, but the models are hinting that the pattern could start to change in early December, with short wave bits of energy starting to break down the western high pressure ridge, potentially cracking open the storm door. Here’s the outlook from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.




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