Middle Park snowpack is at about 75 percent of average
February 3, 2012
Where last year’s snowpack was overwhelming, this year’s is underwhelming.
“I do recommend a snow dance,” said Mark Volt of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Kremmling.
In this year’s first measurement of high-elevation snowpack on Feb. 1, the high country above Middle Park has about 75 percent of the 30-year average snowpack.
Although this measurement is slightly better than the rest of the state, “the longer we go, the more storms it will take to make it up to normal,” Volt said.
(Since the marmot in the mountains saw his shadow on Feb. 2, there are at least six more weeks of winter in which that can happen.)
In comparison, last year’s snowpack at this time was 138 percent of average.
The snow density is averaging 22 percent, meaning for every foot of snow contains about 2.6 inches of water. According to Volt, the lower depth of the snowpack is very granular, which is responsible for the weak snow stability contributing to high avalanche danger in the high country.
The snow course readings are taken at the end of each month beginning in January and continuing through April. March is historically the snowiest month, and the April 1 readings are the most critical for predicting runoff and summer water supplies.
So from now until the April 1 reading, Middle Park will be in a “catch-up” period in terms of snowpack.
In spite of this winter’s sluggish start, “We’re optimistic,” Volt said.
So far, no low-snowpack records have been set this season in Colorado, he said.
Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603