Colorado Mountains Have Driest February in 30 Years

The USDA announced Friday that Colorado's mountains experienced the driest February 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.

At the combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas & San Juan river basins the stations only received 35% of the average February precipitation. Statewide mountain precipitation, while still poor, was only slightly better at 56% of average.

The seasons snow water numbers dropped also in the warm, mostly dry weather. Statewide snowpack is now 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% in the Arkansas and South Platte to 97% in the combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins. The numerical outlying basins are the combined Yampa, White & North Platte River basins at 93% of average.

Here's the current snow water equivalent map for the state:
NRCS SNOTEL snow water equivalent

The state has good news regarding the amount of water we have saved. 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.

The state's wettest months, March and April, will need to bring a significant change in the weather pattern if we are to recover the snow/water loss from February, but the good news is a strong early season has numbers much better than they otherwise could be given the last several weeks.

Weather5280 is tracking another system to impact the state over the next few days. The western mountains will begin to see this system through Sunday and Sunday night. The metro area will have the system's chance for rain and snow on Monday. We will discuss this next system much more in-depth in Sunday's State of the Atmosphere. For now, get out and enjoy yet another very mild weekend along the Front Range!

Matt Makens

Matt Makens has won 5 Emmys for his weather coverage. He has the seal of approval from the NWA and is a certified Broadcast Meteorologist as designated by the AMS. He works for Colorado's Own Ch 2.

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