State snowpack at 88 percent of average
March 4, 2010
Colorado’s snowpack edged up in February thanks to some big storms but it still lags well behind last year at this time.
The statewide snowpack increased to 88 percent of average on March 1 from 86 percent on Feb. 1, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The statewide average is only 82 percent of last year’s total at the same time.
The conservation service measures snowpack with automated sites throughout the state, including seven in the Roaring Fork basin.
The local snowpack is 90 percent of the 30-year average measured between 1971 and 2000. It varies drastically in different parts of the basin.
The conservation service’s Independence Pass site, east of Aspen, showed a snowpack Wednesday that is 96 percent of average.
Three sites in the Fryingpan Valley show drastic differences, based on elevation. The site at Ivanhoe Lake, more than 10,000 feet in elevation, showed a snowpack of 97 percent. Lower in the valley it’s only 73 percent of average at the Kiln site and 71 percent of average at Nast Lake.
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The snowpack is more consistent in the Crystal Valley: 94 percent of average at Schofield Pass; 92 percent at McClure Pass; and 87 percent at North Lost Trail outside of Marble.
The conservation service reported that the snowpack has varied drastically across the state because of the El Nino storm track. “This pattern has resulted in those basins across southern Colorado tracking at near to slightly above average snowpack totals, while those basins in central and northern Colorado remain well below average,” the conservation service said in a statement.
Northern Colorado basins have their lowest snowpack levels since the 2002 drought, the agency said. Water users depending on sources in the Colorado, Yampa and White, and the North Platte basins should be prepared for significantly less water than in the last two years.