Snowpack remains below average
Ryan Summerlin February 7, 2013
Needed snowfall helped to somewhat improve snowpack levels, yet snowpack remains below average and snow density is still low.
Snowpack in the high-elevation mountains above Middle Park are now around 73 percent of the 30-year average. Last year’s snowpack at this time was similar at 75 percent of average.
Snow density is low, however, averaging at only 19 percent, which means that for a foot of snow there are 2.3 inches of water, according to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Kremmling Field Office, from which Mark Volt and Noah Bates conducted snow surveys in the last days of January.
The lower depth of the snowpack is very granular, said Volt, which is responsible for the weak snow stability. Again, this is much like last winter, he said.
Reported readings for the major river basins in Colorado are as follows: The upper Colorado River Basin averages 68 percent; Gunnison River Basin, 77 percent; South Platte River Basin, 61 percent; Yampa and White River Basins, 79 percent; Arkansas River Basin, 64 percent; Upper Rio Grande Basin, 77 percent; San Miguel, Dolores, Animas, and San Juan River Basins 85 percent; and the Laramie and North Platte River Basins,73 percent of average for this time of year.
Most of the snow courses around Middle Park have been read since the 1940s. Snow course readings are taken at the end of each month, beginning in January and continuing through April. March is historically the snowiest month, and the April 1 readings are the most critical for predicting runoff and summer water supplies, as most of the high country snowpack peaks around that time.
For further information, including real-time snow and precipitation data for SNOTEL (automated Snow Telemetry) sites, visit http://www.co.nrcs.usda.gov/snow/index.html.