Expert: Summit snowpack is above average but not abnormal |

Expert: Summit snowpack is above average but not abnormal

Snowy scenes from Rainbow Lake Trail on Wednesday, March 4, in Frisco.
Liz Copan /

FRISCO — Following record-breaking October and February snowfall, the Blue River basin snowpack is above average. Treste Huse, a senior hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Boulder, said the snow-water equivalent — or how much water is held in the snowpack — is 129% of average while the Colorado River basin’s snow-water equivalent is 116% of average.

The seasonal peak for snowpack is in April, according to Huse, who reported that the Blue River basin is at 95% of the seasonal median, or what you would normally see by the April peak. She cautioned that the data doesn’t necessarily mean the above-average snowpack trend will continue. 

“Who knows,” Huse said. “It could be an early snowpack, and it could be dry, or it could keep snowing.” 

Huse also pointed out that while the snowpack is above average, it can hardly be called abnormal. When looking at data over the past five years, the snowpack held more water at this point in the season in 2017 than it does now. When comparing the data to last year, this season’s snow-water equivalent is about the same as it was in 2019 at the beginning of March, but then it skyrocketed after a historic March snow and avalanche cycle.

“It’s definitely above normal, but it’s not way out of the norm,” Huse said. “It’s really not abnormal. Right now, we are almost right where we were in 2019.”

When looking at five-year increments of snowpack data, Huse said one or two years are usually above average. Going forward, Huse explained that there are no La Niña or El Niño phenomenons affecting precipitation. She said this “neutral cycle” is predicted to continue through spring and summer.

Following February’s pounding of snow in Summit County, those who prefer Colorado’s “300 days of sunshine” slogan are in luck for the coming days. Huse said the eight to 14 day outlook indicates warm weather following a Sunday storm.  

“There’s much higher chances of there being above (average) temperatures,” Huse said. 

National Weather Service meteorologist Todd Dankers reported that the storm predicted in Summit County on Sunday likely will be a minor storm and will bring only a few inches. He added that the storm would move through the area quickly. 

Snow-water equivalent data from 2015-2019 compared with the average.
Courtesy photo National Weather Service

Although much of northwest Colorado is seeing high levels of precipitation, much of the state is still in a drought, according to the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University. The Center reports that snowpack is below normal in Arizona and western New Mexico.

“The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center is anticipating low cumulative runoff numbers for this spring and summer from the San Juan Basin southward,” the center reported March 3. “This is due not only to low snowpack but also very low soil moisture prior to the start of the cold season.”

A map from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows above-average snowpack throughout much of Colorado.
Courtesy photo U.S. Department of Agriculture

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