Colorado records below-average snowpack while Summit County tracks just above average
Two weeks of wet weather through the end of February and early March provided a significant increase in snowpack statewide and an even greater boost to the southern Colorado basins still ailing after several back-to-back years of below-normal precipitation.
“While not every major watershed in the state saw snowpack improvements this month, precipitation during the latter half of February was highly beneficial to many water budgets across the state,” said Brian Domonkos, snow survey supervisor with the USDA Colorado Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The four SNOTEL sites in Summit County measured snowpack in the Blue River Basin on Tuesday, March 10, at 109 percent above the median.
That’s a slight drop in the snowpack percent above normal for the date compared with readings from early February.
Statewide precipitation for the month of February was normal, a drastic change from the 45 percent of average received during January.
“Without this storm, if the same weather patterns since Jan. 1 had persisted through spring, mountain snowpack would have narrowly reached only the minimum snowpack peak,” Domonkos said.
Despite the accumulations, statewide snowpack has not quite returned to normal. As of March 1, it was 87 percent of the 30-year average.
Further investigation of SNOTEL data indicates that during the nine-day period of Feb. 20 through March 1, the state received 2 inches of snow-water equivalent, or 181 percent of normal for that time frame.
That 2 inches also represents a 9 percent increase in snowpack percent of median with an additional 7 percent increase arriving between March 1 and March 5. On March 1, with one-fifth of the mountain snowpack accumulation season remaining, snow surveyors said time is dwindling to close the gap and reach typical statewide peak snowpack levels.
STATE’S RIO GRANDE WATERSHED BENEFITS
The recent storm patterns were most beneficial to the Rio Grande watershed, which received 300 percent of normal snowfall in the last nine days of February. The Rio Grande and South Platte watersheds both received a 13 percent gain over the course of February.
In the South Platte River basin, snowpack has not reached 2011 or 2014 levels, but conditions are still above normal and better than in 1988, 1993 and 1994.
Forecasters predict a chance of snow Thursday and Friday for the High Country, followed by dry, warm weather through early next week.
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