Colorado, Roaring Fork snowpack is in good shape; southwest off to slow start
December 15, 2015
Colorado's statewide snowpack is at its median level for this point in the season, but some major river basins are in danger of racking up their fifth straight year of below-average levels, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The statewide snowpack is at 99 percent of the median level for Jan. 1, the federal agency announced this week. The Upper Colorado River Basin, which is fed by the Roaring Fork River drainage, is at 114 percent of the median.
The local snowpack varies widely. The snowpack at the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River east of Aspen is 116 percent of the median level established between 1981 and 2010.
Snowpack levels are significantly above the median at two of three automated weather sites in the Fryingpan River Valley. Ivanhoe is at 134 percent of the median, while Nast Lake is at 139 percent, according the conservation service's website. The Kiln site is only 89 percent of the median.
In the Crystal River drainage, all three weather stations report snowpacks below the median level. Schofield Pass is at 86 percent of the median while North Lost Trail is at 89 percent and McClure Pass is at 93 percent.
The Roaring Fork basin as a whole is at 102 percent, according to the conservation service.
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"Unfortunately, not all of the major basins in Colorado are reporting normal snowpack conditions," the Natural Resources Conservation Service said in a statement. The southwest part of the state is off to a slow start to the winter. The Upper Rio Grande and San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel basins are reporting snowpack levels between 71 and 75 percent of median.
"This is not great news for these areas which have not recorded a normal seasonal snowpack since 2010," the conservation service reported. "If these basins don't receive increased precipitation over the next few months, they may be looking at their fifth consecutive year of below-normal snowpack and seasonal streamflow runoff."
Reservoir storage and streamflow forecasts reflect the snowpack levels. Reservoirs in the northern part of the state are reporting above-average storage while those in the southern part are below average, the agency reported. Streamflow forecasts at this early date are for above-average flows for the spring and summer in the northern part of the state.