Snowpack and Drought

It’s far too early in the season to draw any conclusions regarding 2010 runoff. The first serious forecasts don’t come out until January, and with months of snowmaking weather still to come, no one takes the January forecast terribly seriously. But this is a blog, so I won’t let that stop me.

Currently, the NRCS Snotel stations are reporting 80 percent of normal snow water equivalent (SWE) in the Upper Colorado. (The page at that link is updated daily, so if you’re not reading this on Dec. 26, the number will likely be different.)

Up at Dry Lake, above Steamboat Springs in Colorado, snow typically begins accumulating around Oct. 1, and snowpack peaks around April 1. (I chose Dry Lake mainly because I like the poetry of the name. Tons of snow sites to choose from.) That means we’re nearly halfway through the snow season chronologically, but typically about a third of Dry Lake’s annual snow load comes between Oct. 1 and Jan. 1, and two thirds between Jan. 1 and April 1. So in terms of water supply, we’re really just a third of the way into the season.

In other words, a lot can happen between now and runoff season. But for now, we’re behind the curve.

(image of random Snotel site courtesy NOAA)

One Comment

  1. Not too long ago they restricted snowmobile access in parts of the I-70 area of the Colo Rockies due to lack of snow.

    the other issue is whether El Niño will result in early melt, compounding issues.



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