Snowpack | KUNC

Snowpack

In much of the West, snowpack levels have historically been one of the more reliable ways to determine whether a drought was coming. But a new study says climate change could soon make snowpack data much less reliable.

Nick Cote for KUNC

A warming climate is already causing river flows in the Southwest’s largest watershed to decline, according to a new study from federal scientists. And it finds that as warming continues it’s likely to get worse. 

It was a dry start to the year for some mountain ranges in the region, but recent storms brought most Mountain West snowpack levels back to normal.

 


giac o))) / CC BY 2.0

Colorado is starting off 2020 with plenty of snow in the mountains.

Mountain snow moisture statewide is 122% of the usual amount for this time of year, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Luke Runyon / KUNC

The West’s water security is wrapped up in snow. When it melts, it becomes drinking and irrigation water for millions throughout the region. A high snowpack lets farmers, skiers and water managers breathe a sigh of relief, while a low one can spell long-term trouble.

Luke Runyon / KUNC

Colorado’s mountains were served a thick dollop of snow in back-to-back storms that covered nearly the entire state during the Thanksgiving holiday. 

While the snow made travel close to impossible, grounding planes and closing roads, the additional moisture erased deficits in the headwaters of some of the region’s most important rivers. 

Stephanie Daniel / KUNC

The early season snowstorms that hit the Rocky Mountain region this fall have boosted snowpack levels between two and three times the average.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture report shows snow water equivalent above 150% and 200% of average throughout Idaho, northern Colorado and western Montana. Those levels are also scattered across Wyoming and parts of northern Utah.

Much of the Mountain West saw record breaking snowfall last year which was great news for the mountain resort industry. This year's snowfall may be less intense. 

Courtesy of the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies

Snowpack in every part of Colorado’s high country is sporting layers of dust, according to a new statewide survey of the state’s winter accumulation.

“This is a low frequency dust season,” wrote Jeff Derry, head of the Colorado Dust on Snow Program, in a post about the survey results. “But may be a high consequence snowmelt season.”

Stephanie Daniel / KUNC

Recent figures show snowpack across Colorado is up by almost half after late-winter, early-spring storms.

The Denver Post reports that while the snowfall that pounded Colorado's mountains in recent weeks has helped break the near-term drought, water experts aren't declaring an end to the troubling long-term trend of low water levels as the state's climate shifts to greater deficiency of moisture.

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