Latest News – May 22

Snowpack Levels Improve Across State in Spring

“Colorado’s current snowpack and precipitation levels are right where we want to be this time of year. At this time last year the water supply outlook was grim at best. Elsewhere in the Western United States seasonal snowpack during 2016 succumbed to early spring warming and did not recover as Colorado did from recent storms,” stated Brian Domonkos, Colorado Snow Survey Supervisor, illustrating how fortunate the Colorado water situation. 

Colorado Monthly Snowpack Map for May 2016. Provided by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, these maps incorporate monthly SNOTEL and snow course data.

Colorado Monthly Snowpack Map for May 2016. Provided by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, these maps incorporate monthly SNOTEL and snow course data.

According to the Colorado Snow Survey,  April’s snow showers actually contributed to the increase in the statewide snowpack levels, as opposed to the declines that generally decrease each month from January 1.

But for anyone who has been living in America’s highest city this spring, they could told you that!

April weather conditions and ongoing storms throughout May have yielded a seven percent improvement in snowpack, which now stands at 104 percent of normal. Mountain precipitation across the state of Colorado during April was the best of the 2016 calendar year, at 110 percent of normal. Now water year-to-date precipitation is exactly at 100 percent of normal.

The steady pattern of Spring snow storms gave left Colorados' peaks and high Basins laden with fresh snow. Mt. Elbert Colorado's highest peak at 14,433 stands tall and brilliant in its spring blanket

The steady pattern of Spring snow storms gave left Colorado’s peaks and high Basins laden with fresh snow. Mt. Elbert Colorado’s highest peak at 14,433 stands tall and brilliant in its spring blanket. Photo: Leadville Today.

The seven major mountain watersheds in Colorado all received 90 percent of normal April precipitation or better. Special mention is warranted in the Arkansas, Upper Rio Grande and combined Yampa, White and North Platte Basins, because these areas received 120 percent of normal or better precipitation.

The seven major watersheds also have ninety percent of normal or better water year-todate precipitation. Snowpack metrics indicate that the North and South Platte River basins have the best snowpack in the state at 114 percent of normal. The Arkansas saw the greatest improvement in April, while the Upper Rio Grande and combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan Basins saw little change.

It is fortunate those basins saw little change downward given that snowpack there is now 77 and 85 percent of normal respectively. Although not reflected in snowpack values, it is also fortunate that rain was abundant most particularly in the Upper Rio Grande, which added to the greater water budget. Statewide reservoir totals increased one percent since April 1st ending the month at 112 percent of normal, with declines occurring in the Rio Grande, Arkansas and combined Yampa, White and North Platte watersheds.

For more detailed information about individual Colorado watersheds or supporting water supply related information, have a look at the Colorado Water Supply Outlook Report or feel free to go to the Colorado Snow Survey website. Or contact Brian Domonkos, Colorado Snow Survey Supervisor at Brian.Domonkos@mt.usda.gov or 720-544-2852.

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