Warm, dry spring eats up Colorado snowpack | PostIndependent.com

Warm, dry spring eats up Colorado snowpack

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Dirt shows on Ajax as the season enters its final stretch.The Natural Resources Conservation Service reported Tuesday that Colorado's snowpack is the third worst in 30 years — just 69 percent of normal — for this time in April.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

Colorado’s overall snowpack is the third worst in 30 years for this time in April, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The snowpack is down to 69 percent of normal. It fell from 87 percent of normal one month ago, the federal agency said.

In addition to the dry conditions, spring temperatures are higher than normal so the snowpack is disappearing earlier than usual, according to the conservation service.

“April 9 is typically the time of year when Colorado mountain snowpack is peaking or experiencing its highest values of the winter season,” the conservation service said in a news release. “If the warm temperatures and below normal precipitation continues, that peak this year will have occurred closer to March 9.”

Even if spring snowstorms roll into the Colorado mountains, they are unlikely to return the snowpack to normal levels, according to Brian Domonkos, hydrologist with the Colorado Snow Survey Program. Below average streamflows should be expected, he said.

The snowpack disappeared rapidly throughout the Roaring Fork River basin after a series of storms dumped about six feet of snowfall on slopes in two weeks during late February and early March. The snowpack in the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River is 89 percent of average. In the Fryingpan Valley, the snowpack completely melted at Nast Lake, which is at 8,700 feet in elevation, according to the conservation service. The snowpack is still at 93 percent at Ivanhoe Reservoir, at 10,400 feet in elevation.

The snowpack is only 64 percent of normal at Schofield Pass at the headwaters of the Crystal River. It’s at 44 percent at the North Lost Trail snowpack measurement site near Marble.

March came in like a lion but ended like a lamb for the Aspen Skiing Co. ski areas. Snowmass received 54 inches of snow during the month, about 90 percent of average, according to company spokesman Jeff Hanle. Aspen Mountain received 41 inches or 77 percent. Aspen Highlands received 44 inches or 80 percent. Buttermilk collected 25 inches or 50 percent of average, Hanle said.


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