*Author’s note -this essay was originally published Feb. 26, 2007 on New West.
It’s a mid-winter meltdown here in the Colorado High Country. After a string of seemingly endless powder days that lasted through most of January and the early part of February, the sun is out, the roadside berms are melting. And – shhhhh, don’t tell anyone – despite ski reports touting packed powder, the snow is transitioning at our local ski areas, even turning to (Gasp!) hardpack in places.
None of that stops my friend Dave from making the annual 1,000-mile trek from his home near Lodi, California, where he grows grapes and makes wine when he’s not busy as a volunteer patroller at Heavenly Valley. After all, it’s not just about the snow, it’s about a 20-year ski friendship born on the slopes, a bond that’s in part sustained by our mutual passion for sliding down snow-covered mountains. Continue reading “Skiing heals!”→
Much of West reports record-fast meltdown under El Niño heat
April storms helped boost Colorado’s statewide snowpack to above average, but two river basins in the southern part of the state continue to report below normal readings.
The state’s mountain areas benefited the most from a series of wet, El Niño-fueled storms, bringing precipitation for the water year to average, according to Brian Domonkos, the Colorado snow survey supervisor for the USDA Natural Resources conservation service.
“At this time last year the water supply outlook was grim at best,” Domonkos said. “Colorado’s current snowpack and precipitation levels are right where we want to be this time of year. Elsewhere in the Western United States seasonal snowpack during 2016 succumbed to early spring warming and did not recover as Colorado did from recent storms,” he added. Continue reading “April storms boost Colorado snowpack”→
Flooding, droughts and wildfires all expected to increase
New European climate modeling doesn’t paint a pretty picture for the decades ahead. With global warming, Europe is facing a progressively stronger increase in multiple climate hazards, according to the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.
March snowfall across the Colorado mountains helped maintain the statewide snowpack near average for the water year to-date, but the strong El Niño hasn’t played out as expected.
Instead of boosting moisture in the southwestern corner of Colorado, this year’s edition of the Pacific Ocean warm-water cycle sent the storm track surging into the Pacific Northwest and then down across Colorado’s northern mountains. Northeastern Colorado has been the wettest of all, with a wide section of the plains seeing up to double the average annual rainfall so far.
That’s bad news for the Southwest, where moisture has been sparse for the past several years. Western New Mexico, most of Arizona and the southern California deserts and coast have been especially dry since the start of the rainy season. Regionally, snowpack in the Colorado River Basin above Lake Powell was 94 percent of average as of March 17, and the Federal Bureau of Reclamation is projecting that the inflow to Lake Powell will be just 80 percent of average for the April to July period. Continue reading “Climate: Snowpack dwindles across southern Colorado”→
El Niño didn’t exactly go gangbusters in southwest Colorado last month, where the key river basins received only about 35 percent of average February precipitation. Statewide mountain precipitation was only slightly better, at 56 percent of normal.
“February in the mountains of Colorado is typically a slightly drier month than compared to say, April. But a dry February like this could have big ramifications should April and May not pan out” said Brian Domonkos, Snow Survey Supervisor with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Continue reading “Climate: U.S. West very dry in February”→
‘Wildlife has been experiencing and surviving severe weather for eons without human intervention’
Harsh winter conditions in northwestern Colorado may take a toll on already struggling mule deer herds, state biologists said last week, explaining that they’ve started a limited feeding program to try and keep ungulates from invading cattle grazing areas.
The recent storms have created conditions ranking among the most extreme in the past 35 years. Temperatures dropping well below zero and deep powder snow atop brittle crusts are making it harder for deer and elk to forage and could lead to increased wildlife mortality in portions of the region unless the weather moderates significantly, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Continue reading “Wildlife: Wintry weather to take toll on Colorado mule deer”→