Drought news: ‘…conditions certainly aren’t encouraging that it will be wet’ — Nolan Doesken

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

In its latest report that covers December through February, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the absence of El Niño conditions has thrown forecasters for a loop…

El Niño, which usually peaks in December, was starting to form but stopped, Nolan Doesken, director of the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University, said Tuesday. It’s in one of its rare neutral positions, he said.

As a result, NOAA maps available online show that there are equal chances that precipitation from December through March in Southwest Colorado will be normal, above-normal or below-normal.

As for temperatures in the region, NOAA maps predict December will have a 40 percent chance that temperatures will be above-average. The chances for above-average temperatures rise to 50 percent from December through February. Looking further out, the outlook for January through March is again a 40 percent chance of above-average temperatures…

Farmers and ranchers in La Plata and Archuleta counties face a grim future if the weather outlook proves accurate, Ronnie Posey, executive director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency in Durango, said Tuesday…

Closer to home, the snow level in the Animas, San Juan, Dolores and San Miguel basins is 45 percent of average for this time of year.

Doesken heard a report Tuesday from Klaus Wolter, a University of Colorado climatologist.

Wolter, who sits on the State Water Availability Task Force, said the climate outlook is highly uncertain, but he is leaning in the direction of a dry winter, Doesken said.

From Steamboat Today (Edith Lynn Beer):

109 million gallons of water in its snowmaking operations, which translates to 2,500 acre-feet of snow (1 foot of snow over an acre). “We’re not limited on how much water we take from the river, only the rate at which we can take it, which is 4,200 gallons per minute,” Allen says.

Of the water they use for snowmaking, 22 percent is considered sublimation or evaporation and 78 percent returns to the watershed. To lower the evaporation rate, the nozzles often are placed higher, which requires less compressed air and reduces the rate to 18 percent.

As for the duration crews can make snow, Mother Nature calls the shots. To make snow, the temperature has to be 26 degrees or below. Once started, the guns can continue to make snow up to 30 degrees. The biggest enemy is wind, which can blow it away from the needed area.

“If we’re lacking snow in February and temperatures are favorable, we’d make it,” Allen says. “But last February, we had made as much snow on our snowmaking trails as necessary, and it actually snowed, as well.”

They’ve made snow in March before with disappointing results, Allen says. Melted natural snow mixed with fine-particle man-made snow forms large, frozen granular particles, known as corn, which inhibit consistent sliding. In layman’s terms, it puts the brakes on your skis or board as soon as you hit the man-made snow. “It’s not a great surface to ski on,” Allen says.

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