Let it snow; there’s a lot of catching up to do
COLORADO RIVER BASIN – The northern mountains of Colorado would have to receive about four-and-a-half feet of snow in the next three weeks to reach normal seasonal snowpack levels, according to data from the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS).
“It’s pretty bad, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better,” said NRCS snow survey supervisor Mike Gillespie. “We need a very wet April to get to the average snowpack for the Colorado River Basin.”
Snowpack levels indicate how much water will collect in reservoirs for thirsty cities’ use in the summer and fall.
The spring measurements also correlate with wildfire danger levels in late spring, summer and early fall. A couple thousand acres already have burned in the hills near Boulder, and wildfires are currently burning in Larimer and Fort Morgan counties.
This winter the Colorado River Basin has received a total of 50 feet of snow, or 17 inches of water, Gillespie said. That amount for the regional basin, which includes Summit County’s Blue River Basin, is 79 percent of average for the middle of March.
There is still hope for moisture but not anytime soon, said Klaus Wolter, weather research scientist at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A cold front from the east coast is predicted to hit eastern Colorado in the upcoming week, but the storm will be too shallow to make it into the mountains.
Although there is no predictable connection between March and April precipitation levels, a drier March often leads to a wetter April, Wolter said.
“In a perverse way, you should root for the driest March possible to see a heavy amount of moisture in April,” Wolter said.
Statewide snowpack levels are 84 percent of average, Gillespie said and 90 percent of what they were last year.
More plentiful precipitation levels in southern Colorado are driving those statistics. The overall picture for western central Colorado is much drier than the statewide snowpack averages show.
Wolter, who travels and studies weather in the western United States, said he believes cloud seeding could be turning into a zero-sum game. Summit County has been seeding clouds for two years. Vail has been doing it for more than two decades.
Wolter theorized that with all the agencies in the western U.S. that are cloud seeding there is reason to believe that storm production is being spread out cumulatively among Western states.
Christine McManus can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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