Looking Ahead To Dry Spring, Summer

Apr 14, 2015

Credit Jessica Reeder via Flickr (CC BY creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

Spring is in full effect, and it seems to have a head start. 

A lot of people at iSeeChange.org have been noticing crocuses for a while, but now there’s even more flowers joining in.  Marylin Stone noticed mountain bluebell flowers in full bloom this week, and Steve Ela found his peach trees blooming already, six days earlier than he’s ever recorded and 21 days before the average.  With all the plants waking up early, he’s wondering when to start irrigation, especially in light of the dry winter. 

Coincidentally, a new report from the Natural Resources Conservation Service details Colorado’s snow pack and expected stream flow.  It doesn’t look too good. 

“For the west side of the continental divide in Colorado, the snowpack is currently at 56 percent of normal,” says Brian Domonkos, the Colorado Snow Supervisor for the NRCS.

To make matters worse, the snow is melting ahead of schedule. 

“Colorado’s snowpack is declining a little bit earlier than it usually does at this point in time.  On the trend that we’re on right now: to be melting snow this early, to have such a low peak snowpack (if we have already peaked for snowpack), and if we continue on this current dry trend, I think it’s going to be the beginnings of concern for certain parts of Colorado, especially those that were reeling from dry conditions last year,” says Domonkos.

They’re able to look at the current snowpack and forecast what the stream flow will bee like this spring and summer. 

“Basically, as the streamflows from snowmelt recede throughout the spring and summer, they’re going to be a lot lower than what we typically see, provided we don’t get normal or way above normal precipitation,” says Domonkos.

The current statewide projections put the stream flow at 60 to 75 percent of normal.  In some parts, it’s even lower.  The projected inflow to the Paonia Reservoir, for example, is estimated at 31 percent.  The San Miguel River out by Placerville is estimated at 63 percent of normal.  Both of those numbers could go even lower if it’s a dry spring and summer. 

Domonkos does say though that the number one month for snowfall on Colorado mountains is April, and that things could still change if the weather gets wetter. 

If you notice change around you, let us know, at iSeeChange.org