Snow Capped Mountain Photo Credit: InkkStudios (iStock).

File photo. Photo Credit: InkkStudios (iStock).

Colorado's snowpack situation isn't great, but it's not as bad as it was looking at the start of the snow season.

In mid-December, the snowpack was at about 50 percent of the to-date median statewide. However, huge snowstorms in late December and early January drove snowpack up quickly, eventually pushing it to about 130 percent of the to-date median statewide by January 7.

For the most part, snowpack compared to the 20-year median has continued to drop off from this high mark, now at about 97 percent of the to-date median statewide following this week's round of precipitation.

The black line on this chart shows this year's statewide snowpack over time compared to the 20-year median (bright green line). Big snowstorms can be seen by rapid rises along the black line. Map Credit: USDA.

The black line on this chart shows this year's statewide snowpack over time compared to the 20-year median (bright green line). Big snowstorms this year can be seen by rapid rises along the black line. Map Credit: USDA.

The median peak snowpack is still 28 days away, so the next few weeks could be very telling as to where Colorado's snowpack will end up this winter. If Colorado were to get no more snow for the rest of the year, it would be at 79 percent of the median peak snowpack.

According to long-term forecasting from the National Weather Service, the state of Colorado will likely see above normal precipitation six to 10 days out, with below normal precipitation for several weeks after that. Above normal temperatures are also expected through that entire period, so whether or not that precipitation will be rain or snow is to be determined.

This lower snowpack is what can be expected in Colorado during drier and windier La Niña years.

In terms of how this winter's snowfall has impacted Colorado's persistent drought issue, it's still bad, but it's not as bad as last year.

According to data valid as of March 8 and released on March 10, about 92 percent of the state is under some level of drought. Obviously, that's a lot, but three months ago, that number was 99.87 percent and last year, it was 98.57.

Really, where the good news lies is in the level of more severe drought found around the state. One a four-level system, just six percent of Colorado falls under the two most severe stages of drought. This compares to 19 percent three months ago and 57 percent a year ago. There has been a very slight uptick in the most severe level of drought over the past week, but this is limited to 0.13 percent of the state, specifically in a slim portion of the southeast corner.

There's no doubt about it – Colorado is dry. But it's not dry at record-setting levels and snowpack is likely to land close to the seasonal median as winter starts to taper off assuming that at least a couple more rounds of snow hit over the next four weeks.

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Director of Content and Operations

Spencer McKee is OutThere Colorado's Director of Content and Operations. In his spare time, Spencer loves to hike, rock climb, and trail run. He's on a mission to summit all 58 of Colorado's fourteeners and has already climbed more than half.


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(2) comments


It's also important to remember that the snowiest time of the year in Colorado is actually in the springtime, that's when we get most of our moisture (in the form of snow). A lot of people moving here from other places may not realize that.

82nd Airborne

And thankful for every flake!

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