Click on the thumbnail graphics for a trip down memory lane. I’ve posted the snowpack graphs for the South Platte River Basin from yesterday and for water year 2003. Check out the boost in snowpack from the record-setting snowstorm that started around St. Patrick’s day in 2003. Reservoir storage was very low after the 2002 drought episode and many water suppliers talk about how that one storm saved the day.
From the Boulder Daily Camera (William Callahan):
With only 0.27 inches of moisture and just 3.7 inches of snow, Boulder was way off normal levels. But 25 other Januarys had less than 4 inches of snow, and 36 other Januarys had less than 0.3 inches of moisture. Just recently, January 2003 had 0.5 inches of snow and 0.9 inches of moisture. So a dry January is seldom noteworthy. However, this year is different because its very dry January was preceded by just 20.4 inches of snow during the last half of 2012. Thus, the seasonal snow total now stands at 24.1 inches, which is just more than 50 percent of normal. Last winter had little snow, but reservoirs remained full. The fear has been that the reservoirs would be drawn down throughout 2012 and that if this winter is also dry, they won’t be replenished, intensifying Colorado’s drought.
At the beginning of January, the statewide snowpack was 70 percent of average, and the South Platte River Basin stood at 67 percent. By Jan. 23, the statewide average had dropped to 61 percent, and the South Platte to 55 percent. At that time, the drought monitor showed 13.5 percent of Colorado at the highest level, 5 (exceptional), 45 percent at level 4 (extreme) and the rest of the state at level 3 (severe). Heavy snows in the mountains during the last three days of the month pushed the statewide to 75 percent, and the South Platte to 57 percent. The U.S. seasonal (through April 30) drought outlook from the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center has Colorado in the middle of a 12-state area where drought is expected to “persist or intensify.”