April 1 – Snow Survey


courtesy photo

Mark Volt  taking snow measurements near Willow Creek Pass

Snowpack  Takes a Dive – But still 103% of average

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Kremmling Field Office snow surveyors Mark Volt and Vance Fulton took the April 1 snow survey measurements during the last days of March. Snowpack for Middle Park and the upper Colorado River Basin stands at 103%. Lack of snowfall and warm weather during March, which is usually our snowiest month, has melted all of the valley snow and most of the mid-elevation snow up to 8,500 feet. The snowpack at lower elevation snow courses suffered the worse and high elevation courses have plummeted off their near record highs. Snow density is averaging 40%, which means that for every foot of snow there are 4.8 inches of water, which is unusually high for April 1st.  From this point on, spring runoff will be highly dependent on melting conditions (i.e., temperature and wind), as well as additional spring snow accumulation and/or rainfall.

Reported average readings for the major river basins in Colorado are as follows:  Colorado River Basin 107%; Gunnison River Basin, 122%; South Platte River Basin,104%; Yampa and White River Basins, 91%; Arkansas River Basin, 116%; Upper Rio Grande Basin, 114%; San Miguel, Dolores, Animas, and San Juan River Basins 127%; and  Laramie and North Platte River Basins, 100%.

Most of the snow courses around Middle Park have been read since the 1940s.  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, as most of our high country snowpack peaks around that time.  Manual snow courses will be read for the final time this year at the end of April.

For further information, including real-time snow and precipitation data for SNOTEL (automated Snow Telemetry) sites, visit https://www.co.nrcs.usda.gov/snow/index.html.