February’s mountain precipitation lowest in 30 years

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DENVER -– The USDA announced Friday that Colorado’s mountains had the lowest amount of precipitation in 30 years.

The data was measured from the Natural Resources Conservation Service Snow Telemetry (SNOTEL) network of weather stations. There are 114 such SNOTEL sites that mostly span the mountains; only a handful are at the lower elevations.

For southwestern Colorado, the stations only received 35% of the average February precipitation. Statewide mountain precipitation, while still poor, was only slightly better at 56% of average.

“February in the mountains of Colorado is typically a slightly drier month than compared to say, April. But a dry February like this could have big ramifications should April and May not pan out” comments Brian Domonkos, Snow Survey Supervisor with the USDA NRCS.

SNOTEL snow-water equivalent

SNOTEL snow water equivalent

As expected, snowfall came up short as well. Statewide snowpack is near average at 99%, down 13% during the month of February. Most major watersheds in the state currently fall within a narrow range from 102%  to 97% of the average.

Reservoir storage has been very consistent since the beginning of the water year, not wavering one percentage point at 110% of the thirty-year average.

Currently reservoir levels are far better than the deficits that were experienced during the winters of 2013 and 2014.

With the two most significant precipitation months yet to come, spring and summer runoff are heavily dependent on March and April weather systems.

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