Western US snowpack 2019 - Mountain Buzz

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Old 01-06-2019   #1
no tengo
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Western US snowpack 2019

Here is an early look at 2019.
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Old 01-06-2019   #2
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Been a bit dry up here. A bit of moisture will come in the new few days but then dry again. Yukko
Living in Montana, boating in Idaho
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Old 01-07-2019   #3
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Not only a bit dry, but warmer as well. Hopefully we don't have an early and dry spring
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Old 01-07-2019   #4
Carbondale, Colorado
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Not bad so far in Colorado but what a lot of people forget about is the ground water table. Huge amounts of water are (supposed to be) contained in the underground reservoirs that are empty. After last year we would need an exceptional snowpack just to get back to near normal. An average year will leave us in a severe drought again this year and probably for at least a few more years.
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Old 01-07-2019   #5
Golden, Colorado
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I love the NRCS map of percent of average snowpack. They also publish a percent of average precipitation map.

Unfortunately, unless you query these maps daily and have a very good memory, these maps do not permit an understanding of the trend of these two parameters, i.e. is snowpack and precipitation improving or degrading as a percent of average. In fact, no where to my knowledge is average trend data available, well, uh, except in the flow report I publish daily(please forgive me if I'm wrong, and please forgive me for seeming so proud(boastful?)).

For select western river basins I tabulate and graph the two most recent weeks of daily NRCS percent's of average for snowpack and precipitation. They are the same values posted on the map provided at the beginning of this thread. I also calculate and report a daily value for percent of average flow in each river basins.

The interplay and trend of these three values is very interesting and informative. For example, if snowpack percent of average is less than the precipitation percent of average one valid conclusion is that temperatures are too warm to preserve the precipitation as snowpack. If snowpack percent of average is greater than precipitation percent of average then local factors are resulting in preserving the precipitation as snowpack. The percent of average river flow adds another parameter to ponder.

Bottomline, when all three parameter and their trends are considered as a whole it will permit someone with a strong imagination to stand on a soapbox and pronounce best informed decisions about the status and near term future of runoff conditions in a river basin. In general, that is about as good as you can do as a armchair predictor especially when factoring in NOAA short and long term weather outlooks.

For example, based on what I've said about making bold conclusions using the best available information I will venture to guess that the Salt River will flow this year. At this time the Salt is trending toward 100% of average river flow, precipitation and snowpack. If you haven't done the Salt especially when the cactus/wildflowers are blooming, I highly recommend putting it on your bucket list. This prediction may change next week but then at that time by consulting the flow report the current status and the only available source of trends will be at just beyond the tip of your nose, hopefully, on a high-resolution, big-landscape monitor.

I generate the flow report almost everyday and my friends at Down River Equipment are kind enough to post it on their website when their time permits. The flow report is available at the following link.
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Old 01-07-2019   #6
Golden, Colorado
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An excellent point concerning groundwater conditions. The percent of average flow in a river basin during the winter months strongly suggests current ground water conditions.

I'm sure groundwater recharge during snowpack spring runoff is someone's specialization. It is not mine.

During the height of runoff I wonder how much water actually ends up dedicated to recharge relative to the volume of water ending up in the river. Recharge is a relative slow process to runoff I suspect. I guess the inverse to this question though is when the ground and groundwaters are saturated the runoff it seems is greatly increased.

If I were a young man again seeking a new career I'd ponder and analyse this topic. A value I capture and present in graphs is the USGS statewide river flow index. A thesis to dissertation exists correlating the this index to soil saturation and ground water conditions, values posted by the NRCS. Kool, I might be able to optimize my downloads to factor a value that defines this relationship. But then again, I'm not a young man. I'm retired, off to read the books on my headboard.
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Old 01-07-2019   #7
Carbondale, Colorado
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Thanks for the info Ron. Might be a little basic for your level of expertise but I'm reading a book called " How to Read Water" by Tristen Gooley. Pretty interesting and ties together a lot of knowledge about water, navigation, signs etc. Like I said it's not engineering level but a good broad based interesting read.
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Old 01-07-2019   #8
Golden, Colorado
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Wow kool, I'm on page 84 of Tristan Gooley's "The Natural Navigator". It and other books are on my headboard now. Unfortunately, I'm working through it slowly for various reasons. As perhaps you suggest regarding Gooley, it does tend to be on the side of the obvious but the facts are well stated.

Based on your recommendation I have ordered another book to add on my headboard. I'm likely to move quickly through "How to Read Water" considering how relevant it is to my soapboxing. I guess I also ended up ordering "The End of MegaFauna" based upon a previous order of Craig Childs latest book. Someday perhaps my headboard books will collapse and suffocate me to the benefit of those who tire from people who soapbox.
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Old 01-08-2019   #9
Montrose, Colorado
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I like this discussion and I'd like to add a twist. I live in SW Colorado and have a cabin at 12,000' down in the San Juan mountains. Over the past 10 years I think I have noticed a trend in the weather/atmospheric conditions such that more of the snowpack is lost to evaporation/sublimation in the spring than in the past. I've wondered why. Seems to me that snowpack decreases more quickly and obviously that moisture neither recharges groundwater nor makes its way to provide river flow. My thoughts include the average wind speed, relative humidity, and of course temperature. With average temps rising I suspect this trend will continue. If at 50 deg and relative humidity at 20% there is "X" amount of water in the atmosphere; if temp is 60 deg the atmosphere would hold more water and still be at 20% humidity. Any thoughts?
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Old 01-08-2019   #10
Golden, Colorado
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Howdy Slim,

You definitely conjured up a lot of thoughts based on your observations. I'll try to get back to this before I head off Friday to ski in Austria, lucky me, they are having blizzards and avalanches shutting down travel and back-country access.

For sure, times-they-are-a-changing". Column 35 of my "report" is usually for rivers symbol "4" which if hyperlinked results in a USGS product called a raster hydrograph. This raster hydrograph displays a color indicating CFS flow for everyday that that river gaging station existed. For all free flowing rivers I've checked a keen eye can discern a shift in runoff and peak flow CFS values.

Based on your observations a quick northern Colorado perspective concerns the term "desertification"/"loss of vegetation". If I recall my understanding correctly, over broad regions of the western US the loss of trees due to fire and insect kill both the result of climatic warming is exposing the snow-pack to wind and solar factors that accelerate and reduce runoff because of evaporation and sublimation.

Do your local observations have a component of "desertification"/"loss of vegetation"? Not to say it must.

I'll try to factor for our discussion the total of your observations. I hope someone can chime in at this time with "thoughts".
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