As of Monday, Colorado’s snowpack numbers were nearly off the charts. Statewide snowpack levels were at 539 percent of their season-to-date average, and about 23 times higher than where they were at this time a year ago.
After a tough few winters, there’s little doubt that this winter has featured a remarkable turnaround for Colorado and the West. In particular, the southwestern portion of the state is running more than 10 times above the season-to-date average, and every mountain basin in the state is more than twice its typical early June snowpack levels.
We’ve made a big deal about these statistics, and snowpack is unquestionably far higher than where it normally is for the beginning of June. But, these numbers – while true, of course – might be a bit misleading and worth an extra note of clarification. On Friday, the Colorado Climate Center sent a series of tweets to help explain the significance behind some of the snowpack data figures that have garnered so much attention.
Why are these numbers so huge?? A quick cautionary tale on looking at % of average snowpack during the snowmelt season…
After peak snowpack (aka SWE), the snowpack at our SNOTEL sites typically begins a pretty rapid melt off. A lot can change from one day to the next. pic.twitter.com/l2EW0rlMos
— ColoClimateCenter (@ColoradoClimate) May 30, 2019
So essentially, it’s the slow start to the melting season – fueled by cold late spring temperatures and, yes, some bouts of late May snow – that’s keeping Colorado’s snowpack so ridiculously high.