Time running short for Colorado snowpack to catch up to normal | AspenTimes.com
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Time running short for Colorado snowpack to catch up to normal

Staff report

The prospects for a good water supply for spring and summer are looking increasing bleak after Colorado’s mountains received so little snow during January, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the branch of the federal government that tracks snowpack.

The snowpack, as a percent of normal, decreased in every major drainage in the state during January, sometimes significantly, the agency said.

The statewide snowpack was about 83 percent of the median as of Feb. 1, according to the conservation service.

“With nearly one third of the winter remaining, Colorado is running short of time to catch up,” said Colorado snow survey supervisor Brian Domonkos in a prepared statement. “Statewide snowfall would need to amount to 124 percent of normal from now until mid-April to achieve normal snowpack peak levels.”

“Statewide snowfall would need to amount to 124 percent of normal from now until mid-April to achieve normal snowpack peak levels.”Natural Resources Conservation Service

January is an important month for mountain precipitation. In an average month, mountains receive about 3.2 inches of precipitation. January produced only 1.4 inches, about 45 percent of average.

The Aspen Water Treatment Plant, which is the official National Weather Service weather station for Aspen, said this January was the second driest for the month since 1935. It recorded only 5.26 inches of snow for the month.

Despite the lack of snow, the conservation service’s automated weather station at the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River, east of Aspen, showed a snowpack 111 percent of the median for 1981 through 2010.

However, the overall snowpack for the Roaring Fork Basin was only 90 percent of average. Three sites in the Crystal River Valley were particularly low. Two sites in the Fryingpan River Valley were above average and one was below.

The projected spring and summer stream flow volumes vary widely across the state, but most are expected to be between 60 and 85 percent of average.


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