Eric Brown
ebrown@greeleytribune.com

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January 31, 2013
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Expert: S. Platte, Colorado basin snowpack likely to stay below average

Colorado State University climatologist Nolan Doesken hoped he’d taken up all of his speaking time Wednesday at the Colorado Farm Show with historical climate data, and wouldn’t have to continue and deliver the weather forecast for which his audience had assembled.

“D’oh,” Doesken said jokingly, looking at his watch after rehashing the effects of the 2012 drought. “Unfortunately, we still have time.”

Northern Colorado farmers and water providers need normal snowfall this winter and spring to get reservoir levels back to normal, after last year’s drought forced water users to consume much of the water that was in storage.

However, at this point — about midway through winter — there’s only about a 10 percent chance of that happening, according to data shared by Doesken.

Doesken said snowpack in the South Platte River basin is likely to amount to about 75 percent of historic average by spring’s end.

In the Colorado River basin — where Front Range farmers and water users also get some of their water — snowpack is expected to amount to only about 80 percent of average.

That’s at least a step up from where numbers are now.

According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, snowpack in the South Platte basin on Wednesday was only 53 percent of average, and snowpack in the Colorado basin was 66 percent of average.

Statewide, snowpack is at 72 percent of average.

The present and forecasted snowpack numbers are much higher than where they were last year.

At the end of May, statewide snowpack was only 2 percent of average.

Because 2012 brought record heat and record-low precipitation, ag producers and residents depended heavily on stored water from reservoirs to grow their crops and irrigate their lawns.

At the beginning of the year, statewide reservoir levels were about 68 percent of average, according to NRCS numbers, and with extended drought into the growing season, water experts say, some reservoirs could empty, and some farmers would have little water with which to grow crops.

For that reason, farmers and ranchers were hoping for plentiful rain and snowfall in recent months to get things back to normal.

Similar to forecasts given recently by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climatologist Klaus Wolter in Boulder, Doesken said the three-month weather outlook calls for more of the same — hot and dry.

However, while snow is expected to be limited, the weather could bring surprises, Doesken said.

In one past year, Doesken said, snowpack was lower than it is now, but, because of large snow storms, was well above average by the end of the spring.

“You never know,” Doesken said. “We’ll hope for the best.”


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My Windsor Now Updated Feb 2, 2013 12:01AM Published Feb 3, 2013 12:48AM Copyright 2013 My Windsor Now. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.