Friday, April 19, 2013

Some Breathing Room

The cool, intermittently wet pattern over the past couple of weeks has likely provided just a bit of breathing room for water managers in northern Utah, with one more storm to come tonight and tomorrow.

We discussed previously the meager snowpack that existed at the end of March.  Not much has changed at lower elevations where much of the precipitation that has fallen in April has either been rain or wet snow that melted quickly between storms.  For example, the Ben Lomond Trail SNOTEL (~6000 feet) bottomed out earlier this month with no real recovery (green line).  This is about a month earlier than their median date of the loss of snow cover (purple line).

Source: CBRFC
Things look better, however, at some (but not all) upper-elevation sites.  In the Cottonwoods, both Mill-D North (8960 ft) and Snowbird (9640 ft) have gained snowpack this month.  At Mill-D North, they are often losing snowpack this time of year (see purple and blue lines), so thats a net positive, putting them well ahead of where they were last year, but still just a bit below the snowpack peak and the average for this time of year (red line).  At higher-elevation Snowbird, however, accumulation rates have only been sufficient for them to keep up with the pace of snowpack growth that is typical until late April.  Nevertheless, that's better than losing ground.  

Source: CBRFC
Skiers should take note that the snowpack at Snowbird is now just a shade ahead of the peak from last year.  Hooray!  The snow depth at Alta-Collins reached 117 inches this week.  So close to 10 feet!  Better late than never.  

Further east, the snowpack in the high-altitude Uinta Mountains actually looks pretty good.  Many sites sit near or above average.  

Source: CBRFC
Major gains have occurred in the Uintas this month.  Check out the increase in snowpack at Trial Lake, which is now sitting just above the median and average peak snowpack and well above last year.

Source: CBRFC
On the other hand, there are some areas in northern Utah that Mother Nature completely abandoned.  Neither Ben Lomond (8000 ft) nor Timpanogos Divide (8100 ft) ever got anywhere near a decent snowpack and they haven't recovered much in April either (they are the red boxes in the plot above).

As we have said many times this year, it ain't over until it's over, but based on the longer range (6-14 day) forecast, this weekend might prove to be this season's upper-elevation snowpack peak.  In most areas, it won't be a great runoff year and the total volume will likely be below average, but it won't be as bad as last year either.  

1 comment:

  1. Lotso 'pluses' and 'minuses' in that post...much like this winter. Thanks for keeping us updated with your perspective.