Recent Storms Massively Improve Colorado’s Snowpack but Still at a Significant Deficit

Steven Agar | | WeatherWeather
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Telluride, CO. Recent storms have significantly improved the snowpack. Credit: TMC

A welcome recent turn in the weather is not only cheering skiers but has provided an impressive boost to Colorado’s snowpack levels, particularly in the especially dry southwest part of the state, reports

The statewide snowpack reached 74 percent of normal as of Friday, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a huge improvement on the 59 percent at the start of the month.

Chris Cuoco, senior forecaster at the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said “It’s a better increase than I would have thought, so that’s good — (up) to the tune of 20 percent down south, so that’s a pretty good jump.”
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Current Colorado snowpack, % of average. No more red areas! Credit: NRCS

Nevertheless, the snowpack deficit remains significant. Karl Wetlaufer, the assistant snow supervisor for the NRCS Colorado snow survey program, says that with less than two months left in the typical snow accumulation season, the kind of snowfall needed to reach peak accumulation has happened only twice out of the last 36 years. Wetlaufer added that even with the snowier weather of late, three automated snow measurement sites on Grand Mesa remained at record-low levels as of Thursday, based on records dating back 29 to 40 years, depending on the site.

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Looking pretty bare a month ago. Credit: Powderhorn

Recent heavy snowfall enabled Powderhorn Mountain Resort to return to a seven-day-a-week schedule this week. Resort spokesman Ryan Robinson said Powderhorn had gotten 6 or 8 inches for the day as of late afternoon Friday, 8 inches the prior 24 hours, and almost four and a half feet over the last two weeks.

Making up a snowpack deficit requires that it not just snow, but snow even more than normal at a time of higher typical snowpack accumulation, which Cuoco compared to trying to catch up to an accelerating car.

“Luckily though (the weather) did turn around and the snow is beginning to pile up and we’re incrementally chipping away at that deficit little by little with every storm that comes in,” he said.

While Cuoco is happy about the snow for the sake of skiers, as the fire weather program leader for the local National Weather Service office, he’s also hoping the wetter weather now might mean a less severe fire season this summer.

3-month outlook for precipitation not looking great for Colorado. Credit: NOAA

He noted that as of Tuesday, southwest Colorado was listed as being in extreme drought, with much of western Colorado in severe drought. Runoff from snowpack is crucial for agricultural and municipal water supplies in Colorado.

Warmer than average temperatures predicted for Colorado. Credit: NOAA

And while Colorado has been blessed by some wet Mays in recent years, the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center currently is saying there’s a probability of both warmer and drier conditions than normal in Colorado over the next three months.

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