Great Start To Colorado Snowpack, But 2012 Disaster Stands As Warning

By Chris Spears

DENVER (CBS4) – The 2015-2016 snow season has been a good one so far across the state of Colorado thanks to an active jet stream and an El Niño weather pattern.

As of Feb. 4 all of Colorado’s major river basins had higher-than-normal snowpack for this time of year.

(credit: CBS4/Colorado's Weather Center)

(credit: CBS4/Colorado’s Weather Center)

The most recent winter storm to hit Colorado’s high country dropped snow that was measured in feet at many locations.

In some places the powder is so deep that you can’t even see skiers as they go down the slopes.

A recent snowstorm dropped over 30" of fresh power on Telluride. (credit: Ryan Bonneau, 31 inches there from the last storm)

A recent snowstorm dropped over 30″ of fresh power on Telluride. (credit: Ryan Bonneau, 31 inches there from the last storm)

But while the news is good, one of the most important months for snow accumulation is yet to come.

“March is our biggest month for snowfall,” said Noah Newman with CSU’s Colorado Climate Center in Fort Collins. “If we don’t see the expected March snow then these numbers will go down.”

Heavy snow in Telluride. (credit: YouReporter Brett Schreckengost)

Heavy snow in Telluride. (credit: YouReporter Brett Schreckengost)

The year 2012 was a great example of just how important March snowfall is to Colorado.

After an extremely wet spring in 2011 and a decent start to the season in 2012, things changed rapidly in March.

The snow machine suddenly shut down and most of the state recorded well below average snowfall.

It played a critical role in setting the stage for a major drought to develop and fueled one of the deadliest and most destructive wildfire seasons in state history.

So much snow has fallen in and around Steamboat Springs that some fences are almost buried. (credit: Larry Pierce)

So much snow has fallen in and around Steamboat Springs that some fences are almost buried. (credit: Larry Pierce)

The outlook for this year remains on the positive side with a strong El Niño still in progress which tends to keep Colorado near the main storm track heading into spring.

But March will ultimately tell the tale, by providing a much more accurate picture of just how well Colorado’s water supply will look heading into summer.

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

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