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Colorado snowpack remains below average

Denver- January saw the Pacific jet stream finally begin to shift southward; by mid January it had positioned itself over southern Wyoming and northern and central Colorado bringing much needed precipitation to basins west of the Continental Divide. In a reversal of conditions earlier this season, basins east of the Divide saw very little snowfall during this period. Unfortunately these storms were not enough to boost the statewide snowpack significantly. Recent snow surveys conducted by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) show that Colorado’s snowpack continues to track below the long-term average according to Phyllis Philipps, State Conservationist, with the NRCS.
Colorado’s statewide snowpack was 72 percent of average as of February 1 and 62 percent of last year’s readings at this same time. The increased snowpack totals across western Colorado were somewhat offset by decreased snowpack’s across the southern and eastern basins. This has resulted in nearly the same statewide snowpack percentage for two consecutive months.
With typical La Nina precipitation and snowfall patterns returning to Colorado in January, the southern and southeastern basins saw significant decreases in their snowpack’s after a stellar start to the season. The Arkansas basin was at 81 percent of average on February 1 down from 94 percent at the beginning of January. The greatest decrease was measured in the Upper Rio Grande basin whose snowpack percentage was down 15 percentage points from January 1. January storms boosted the snowpack in west central Colorado. As of February 1, both the Gunnison and Colorado basins snowpack percentages increased by 9 percentage points from where they were on January 1. The Yampa, White, and North Platte basins did not gain much during these storms. The basins are reporting nearly the same snowpack percentage as last month; 65 percent of average as of February 1.
Statewide the snowpack remains well below what was measured last year on February 1. This is most apparent in the Yampa and White river basins which boasted well above average snowpack’s this time last year. The combined basins snowpack was measured at 60 percent of average on February 1, just 48 percent of what was measured at this same time last year. Forecasts for spring and summer water supplies in these basins reflect the below average snowpack. Reservoir storage across the state continues to remain in good condition which should help ease potential shortages this season.
The table below shows Colorado’s snowpack and reservoir storage as of February 1, 2012.

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