Snowpack holding strong in high country
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
Snowpack in much of the Colorado high country remains above average for this time of year, especially in the southern mountains, where the latest storm cycle dropped several feet of new snow in the past few days.
“We’ve seen good increases in the southern part of the state,” said Mike Gillespie, snow-survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Based on the latest snowpack data, Gillespie is predicting a good run-off season.
“Statewide, we’re about 114 percent of average,” he said.
The highest reading comes from the Rio Grande Basin, at 128 percent of normal. Only the South Platte drainage is slightly below average, at 98 percent.
The Colorado River Basin is at 118 percent of average, while the Blue River drainage, defining much of Summit County, is at 125 percent.
Snowfall patterns have been similar to last season, at least through the early part of the winter.
“It dried a bit in January compared to last year,” Gillespie said. “But looking ahead for the next 10 to 15 days, it looks like the storm track is targeting Colorado. It looks like February will be a good month for us.”
Forecasters with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center also are calling for on-and-off chances for snow during the coming week.
Local ski areas have picked up anywhere from one to five inches in the past few days. The big dumps have been in the San Juans, with 12 inches at Telluride, 15 at Purgatory and 27 inches at Wolf Creek.
Weather researcher Klaus Wolter made a similar assessment for the near-term, predicting that the La Nina pattern (colder than average sea-surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific) will continue to steer a moist northwest storm track across the northern Colorado mountains for the rest of the month, with dry conditions on the plains.
Wolter said strong winds have eaten away the snowpack in parts of the state.
Beyond February, things may dry up a bit, especially in the northern mountains.
“The next two weeks look pretty darn good. … Enjoy the powder in February, then hope for the best,” said Wolter, referring to what he called a “quirky” La Nina pattern.
Along with state climatologist Nolan Doesken, Wolter has identified a 50-year warming trend in the north-central Colorado mountains, especially for winter temperatures.
But the trend looks much weaker after the past three or four years, as winter temperatures returned closer to the historic average, Wolter said.
Summer temperatures in the region have continued to veer toward the high side, leading to an overall warming trend.
“The annual numbers haven’t changed that much,” Wolter said.
Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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