Snowpack Levels Improve But Still ‘Playing Catch-up’ by Gus Jarvis
J. Roberts photo Snow/Water equivalency scale
WESTERN SAN JUANS – As snow continues to fly across Colorado on a steady basis, bringing a sense of winter normalcy back to most areas, state snowpack levels have improved. But to realize an average end-of-season snowpack after a dismally dry start to the season, March needs to be a very, very snowy month.
“If you look where the statewide snowpack totals are right now, we are where we typically should be on February first. As snowpack levels go, we are kind of a month behind,” said Natural Resources Conservation Service Snow Survey Supervisor Mage Skordahl on Monday. “Currently we are at 77 percent average statewide, which is an improvement from 72 percent at the beginning of February. The percent of average snowfall needed next month (to get to 100 percent average) is 178 percent of average. We are still playing catch-up.”
After a high pressure ridge kept most of Colorado relatively dry in December and for the first part of January, the Pacific jet stream finally shifted southward and positioned itself over southern Wyoming and northern and Central Colorado, bringing precipitation to basins to the west of the Continental Divide. Relatively speaking, Colorado’s southern mountains had a better start to the winter than the central and northern Mountains. But as a typical La Nina precipitation and snowfall pattern returned to Colorado in January, the southern basins saw a significant decrease in precipitation.