January sees bountiful precipitation
SUMMIT COUNTY – Snowfall continued well above average in January, with Breckenridge weather observer Rick Bly tallying 39.5 inches for the month. The average snowfall for January is 22 inches, based on records going back more than 100 years.But the January 2006 total is far from a record, set in the legendary winter of 1899 with 80.2 inches of snow. More recently, January 1996 also far surpassed this last month’s total, with 71.8 inches.Bly measures snowfall at his backyard weather gauge in town. Snowfall high on the mountain, at 11,059 feet, measured 69 inches for the month. The season to-date total at that location is 214.5 inches, as measured by Day Weather Inc., the Wyoming-based company that compiles the Summit Daily’s weather page.
Bly said that, while there haven’t been any particularly memorable big dumps this winter, it just keeps piling up. For the weather year so far (Oct. 1 through Jan. 31) there have been 54 days with measurable precipitation, as compared to an average of 38 days.At Bly’s weather station, the snowfall total for that span is 148.9 inches, compared to the long-term average 76.7 inches, making this the eighth-snowiest winter on record so far. Snowfall to date is 194 percent of normal, and that snow melts down to 11.23 inches of water (average 5.74 inches), or 195 percent of normal. February isn’t usually much snowier than January, with the average snowfall standing at 23.5 inches. We’ll have to nearly quadruple that to surpass the record 84.5 inches set in 1893. And let’s hope we don’t get anywhere near the record for the two driest Februarys ever, 1982 (2.1 inches) and 1981 (2.9 inches).
At Dillon, where Denver Water officials also track weather stats for the National Weather Service, snowfall totaled 22.5 inches in January, just a shade more than the average 18.6 inches, based on records dating back to 1909. And that snow was a little drier than average, with a water equivalent of exactly 1 inch, compared to the average 1.09 inches.Temperatures at the Dillon site ranged from a monthly high of 45 degrees on Jan. 8 all the way down to a low of minus 15 degrees on Jan. 21. That was also the coldest day of the month, with the high temperature reaching only 15 degrees.The daily highs averaged out to exactly 30 degrees for the month, 1.3 degrees below the historic average of 31.3 degrees. The average daily low temperature was 2.5 degrees, compared to the average 1.3 degrees.
The snowpack near Dillon Dam held constant between 15 and 20 inches all month long, staying close to double the average 10-inch snowpack at the site.That healthy snowpack level is reflected by readings from the automated Snotel sites around the northern part of the state, standing at 150 percent of average or more at most locations.The story is dramatically different in the southern part of the state, where snowpack and projected stream runoff is less than 50 percent of average in most spots.
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