January delivers snow surplus to Summit
February 3, 2008
SUMMIT COUNTY ” The January snowfall total was above average for the third straight month at the official National Weather Service site in Breckenridge, where observer Rick Bly measured 31.5 inches of snow for the month.
That’s about 41 percent more than the historic average, Bly said, but nowhere near the record snowfall of 80.2 inches set in the epic winter of 1899.
And as recently as 1996, 71.8 inches of snow fell in January. Bly said that, even with above-average snowfall through the first part of the winter, this season doesn’t rank in the top 10.
“It’s pretty average,” Bly said.
But there has been an above-average number of days with measurable snowfall in the past three months, he said. Normally, there are 21 days with measurable snow from November to January, but this winter, at least a half inch has fallen on 35 days.
For the weather year to-date (beginning Oct. 1), Bly has tallied 108 inches of snow in downtown Breckenridge, compared to the average 77 inches. That melts down to 7.5 inches of water, about 1.5 inches more than the average 5.8 inches for that span.
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Based on statistics going back more than 100 years, Bly said the average snowfall for February is 23.4 inches. The snowiest February ever was in 1893, with 84.5 inches, and the driest February on record was 1982, with just 2.1 inches.
At the Dillon weather station, 18 inches of snow piled up last month, nearly matching the historic average of 18.6 inches. But cold temperatures kept that snow from melting away. The average snow depth for January is eight inches, but this year, there were 18 inches on the ground when the Dillon station reported its monthly totals.
The average daily maximum temperature was 24.1 degrees, well below the historic average of 31.3 degrees, marking the first time in about six months that temperature reading stayed below average.
The average daily low was minus 1 degree, nearly matching the historic average of minus 1.3. There were three days with single-digit highs, with the coldest reading of the month (four degrees) coming on Jan. 17. the thermometer climbed above the freezing mark just seven times. The high for the month was 48 degrees on Jan. 28.
Sub-zero temperatures registered 14 times, with the coldest night (minus 19 degrees) on Jan. 17.
The snowpack in the Blue River Basin is about 120 percent of average for this time of year. That’s right about were it was last year on this date, said water commissioner Scott Hummer. Although a few stream gages are frozen, Hummer said streamflows are hovering near historic norms for early February.
Statewide, the snowpack is also in good shape, with only the South Platte Basin reading below 100 percent of average, Hummer said.
If snowfall stays anywhere near average the rest of the winter, runoff and reservoir storage should be in good shape this spring, Hummer said.
Hummer said the Bureau of Reclamation recently upped the outflow from Green Mountain Reservoir because water levels were higher than normal for this time of year.
Big storms in the southern half of the state have boosted the snowpack readings to well above average, at 143 percent in the Gunnison Basin, 158 percent in the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan Basin, and 168 percent in the Rio Grande Basin.
A wider look around the West shows that the wet winter weather pattern has been widespread, from the Pacific Northwest down to the desert Southwest. The only below average readings at Snotel sites are in northeastern Wyoming and in southwestern Arizona, near the Mexico border.