Colorado snowpack levels remain in good shape in April, but not quite at 2019 levels

Colorado snowpack figures are continuing to run a tick above average, an especially vital statistic heading into the typical early April peak for statewide snowpack.

Based on official data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service on Monday, Colorado statewide snowpack is at 104% of its season-to-date average. Early April is traditionally the peak time of the year for Colorado’s snowpack, following winter and early spring storms and just ahead of the big mid- to late-spring melt.

The above-average levels are particularly important this time of year, signaling that the 2019-20 winter will likely finish with an average or above-average snowpack.

“Overall, we’re in decent shape,” Colorado assistant state climatologist Becky Bolinger said of this season’s snowpack levels. “No region has to worry about early peak (snow runoff) now.”

Also key is the relatively even geographic spread of the snowpack. Of the eight major statewide river basins, none had less than 94% of their typical snowpack, and none of them had more than 113%. That said, southern Colorado has generally leaned a little lighter on the snowpack compared to northern parts of the state.

While the 2019-20 winter has generally been a solid one in terms of statewide snowfall, Colorado snowpack figures aren’t at last winter’s off-the-charts levels. That could potentially lead to a few patchy drier spots for the summer, depending in part on additional seasonal snowfall and the speed of the spring melt.

“I have a feeling, though, that lower-elevation snowpack was not quite as good as it was last year,” Bolinger said. “So, we won’t have quite as much water and meltoff as we had last year. Water supply forecasts are a bit lower than average this spring/summer. But overall, we’re in decent shape.”

Parts of southern Colorado remain in a moderate to severe drought, mostly owing to a dry 2019 summer and fall. However, snowfall runoff may help ease some of those drought conditions, depending in part on this spring’s weather.

Healthy Colorado snowpack is especially important for a number of reasons. For one, the melted snowfall is a vital source of water for reservoirs. Also, melted snowfall can stay in otherwise dry soil well into summer, providing a potential partial safeguard against wildfires.

And of course, water from melted Colorado snowfall serves as the headwaters for several major rivers, providing critical water resources for Colorado and several other drier Western states.

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