Colorado Snowpack Struggles As Drought More Than Doubles Since Christmas

DENVER (CBS4) – With the end of snow season in sight for Colorado’s high country the statewide snowpack continues to struggle.

As of March 20 it was 81 percent of normal, down from 92 percent on March 6.

The average peak for snow accumulation in Colorado’s mountains is April 9.

A view from the top of Pikes Peak on March 20, 2015. (credit: CBS)

A view from the top of Pikes Peak on March 20, 2015. (credit: CBS)

While we’re in much better shape than some of our neighbors to the west, we know all too well how fast things can change when the weather patterns shift.

(credit: CBS) (credit: CBS)

Colorado is a land-locked state about 1,000 miles from the nearest source of atmospheric moisture and it depends on weather patterns to bring rain and snow.

The latest information from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that 51 percent of the state was in a drought as of March 17.

That’s up 30 percent from just three months ago.

(credit: US Drought Monitor) (credit: US Drought Monitor)

(credit: US Drought Monitor) (credit: US Drought Monitor)

The latest 90-day outlook from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center provides hope for the state with a wetter-than-normal forecast.

RELATED: Spring Arrives With A Wet Outlook For Colorado

For Colorado to reach peak snow accumulation by the normal date we’ll need a few slow-moving and soggy storm systems to materialize quickly in the high country.

SNOTEL data shows that precipitation would need to be 293 percent of normal to reach peak accumulation by April 9.

The following is a list of when the 8 major river basins in Colorado typically reach their peak snowpack.

Yampa & White – April 10
North Platte – April 11
South Platte – April 26
Colorado – April 10
Gunnison – April 6
San Juan/Dolores – April 6
Upper Rio Grande – April 10
Arkansas – April 11

The following list shows how much precipitation is needed for Colorado’s 8 major river basins to reach peak snow accumulation.

Yampa & White – 271 percent of normal
North Platte – 236 percent of normal
South Platte – 118 percent of normal
Colorado – 202 percent of normal
Gunnison – 300 percent of normal
San Juan/Dolores – 438 percent of normal
Upper Rio Grande – 436 percent of normal
Arkansas – 147 percent of normal

A dry and warm forecast is in store for the upcoming weekend but there are signs that things may become a bit more active by the middle of next week.

Meteorologist Chris Spears writes about stories related to weather and climate in Colorado. Check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @ChrisCBS4.

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