COLORADO, USA — After back-to-back slower seasons in 2020-21 and 2021-22, Colorado's statewide snowpack will see its first above-average season since 2018-19.
Based on data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), statewide snowpack on Monday was at 105% of its median peak level. That means that, barring a highly unexpected major melt between now and early April, Colorado will see its first above-average snowpack season in four years.
Early April is the climatological peak of Colorado's statewide snowpack, meaning that's when Colorado historically has its highest snowpack levels before the spring melt begins.
The mountains have enjoyed consistent snowfall all season long, mostly owing to an active weather pattern and some links to the frequent atmospheric river events that have hit California especially hard this winter.
While this is overall unquestionably good news for Colorado's drought and lagging reservoir levels, there are some important caveats to this.
For starters, the Arkansas River basin, mostly encompassing southeastern Colorado, continues to be behind the rest of the state's snowpack levels. As of Monday, the Arkansas basin was only at 79% of its season-to-date snowpack level, putting it well behind the rest of the state's other seven major river basins.
And while all this snowpack will help on a number of different fronts, if it all melts too quickly, it could create two big problems. Flooding and even ice jams could result if we rapidly warm up in April or May. And one of the primary pluses of a big snowpack season, protection from the summer wildfire season, could get essentially washed away if it all melts too quickly. The latter point will mostly depend on late April, May and June temperatures.
Still, the benefits of a big snowpack season are important. It's already helped significantly chip away at the drought and all but eliminate drought conditions in the mountains. Reservoirs will at least partially feel the benefits of the big snow year come spring and summer. And skiers and snowboarders have enjoyed consistent mountain snowfall all season long.
And we're far from done. Winter Storm Watches are up for parts of the mountains for Wednesday and Thursday, with yet another storm set to deliver more snow to the mountains this week.
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