After a long stretch of dry and uneventful weather, things sure have changed quickly. Snowpack across Colorado has increased significantly since the recent series of storms have blasted through.
Before Dec. 7, the statewide snowpack was sitting at about 54% of normal. The number has now risen to more than 70% of normal with several basins above that.
Snowpack is the all-important number that is tracked across the river basins of Colorado because how much snow the mountains get directly correlates to how much water is put into the rivers that deliver drinking water to downstream locations.
There are eight watersheds that are monitored across Colorado and each one has dozens of Snotel weather stations that track things such as snowpack.
Here is how much change each watershed has seen from Dec. 7 to 14:
Yampa/White/Little Snake: 20 percentage points higher
Laramie and North Platte: 14 percentage points higher
South Platte: 7 percentage points higher
Colorado Headwaters: 19 percentage points higher
Gunnison: 36 percentage points higher
Arkansas: 22 percentage points higher
Upper Rio Grande: 30 percentage points higher
San Juan/Delores/Animas: 50 percentage points higher
Overall, this meant that we gained about 20 percentage points of the snowpack that we should have by this time of the year. The most notable increases that you’ll find are near Telluride, Silverton and Durango, where past storms have really dropped some moisture. The Gunnison and Upper Rio Grande watersheds have also seen a great increase in snowpack numbers.
With the statewide average still sitting well below normal, we still need some active weather and wet storms to move through to bring us back to normal but at least we are at a better point than where we were earlier this month.
While there are some stations reporting close to average conditions, there are plenty of stations that are still running very low. When looking at data from all of the substations within each watershed, you’ll notice where local deficits are most notable.
Areas near Cuchara and Westcliffe are struggling in terms of snowpack, as well as areas near Pikes Peak and Bailey. Inversely, the Lower Gunnison and Uncompahgre are running at or above average.
There’s a story to be told for each basin, but when looking at the big picture, all of Colorado needs more moisture to bring the state back to normal. The forecast calls for a couple of rounds of snow to move into the state before the Christmas holiday so that should help raise numbers a bit more.
Andy Stein is a freelance meteorologist.
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