Models show dry, warm end to the winter for Colorado

The forecasts dampen hopes that the state’s snowfall numbers will recover from one of their lowest levels in decades.

The outlook for the end of winter and early spring in 2018. (NOAA)
The outlook for the end of winter and early spring in 2018. (NOAA)
The outlook for temperatures through the end of winter and early spring in 2018. (NOAA)

The latest climate models from federal forecasters show that much of Colorado may see warmer, drier weather for February through April. The forecasts dampen hopes that the state’s snowfall numbers will recover from one of their lowest levels in decades.

That could mean lower-than-normal water supplies later this year for some Western states, but the outlook for Denver’s water reservoirs is actually relatively good.

The weather models:

The three-month National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration outlook shows a higher possibility of higher-than-normal temperatures. The southeastern half of the state also may see lower-than-normal snow and rain totals, the models say.

The outlook for precipitation for the end of winter and early spring. (NOAA)
The outlook for precipitation for the end of winter and early spring. (NOAA)

Denver has seen just a fraction of its typical snowfall this year, its third least on record, according to Matt Makens. The city is in moderate drought, and 99.4 percent of Colorado is either abnormally dry or in moderate to severe drought, per the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The snow total across much of the mountains of Colorado and Utah are at a “near-record low for early January,” according to the Western Water Assessment.

What it means for the water supply:

The amount of snow determines how much water will flow from the mountains into rivers. Fortunately, the area that supplies Denver is in relatively good shape.

“Snowpack above Denver Water’s collections system is faring better than some parts of the state,” wrote Denver Water spokesman Travis Thompson in an email to Denverite.

The level of snow in Denver Water’s collection areas ranges from 90 to to 92 percent of normal, he said. The water system’s reservoirs are 90 percent full, which is higher than normal for this time of year.

“It really is too early to speculate on snow totals or reservoir operations for the year, but water managers are keeping an eye on conditions and forecasts daily,” Thompson added.

Snowpack is running below the median in much of the West.
Snowpack is running below the median in much of the West.

Andrew Kenney

Author: Andrew Kenney

Andrew Kenney writes about public spaces, Denver phenomena and whatever else. He previously worked for six years as a reporter at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. His most prized possession is his collection of bizarre voicemail. Leave him one at 303-502-2803, or email akenney@denverite.com.