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Late Spring Snow Helps Snowpack At Rocky Mountain National Park – But Concerns Remain


The Bear Lake kiosk in Rocky Mountain National Park during today's snow. NPS photo.

Winter just keeps on hanging around in parts of the country, and today's snowfall at Rocky Mountain National Park brought some welcome moisture to the park. Even with the late precipitation, there's concern throughout the region for the lower than normal snowpack.

Kyle Patterson, the park's Public Information Officer, reports there were 15 inches of new snow on the ground as of 9:15 this morning at Bear Lake (elevation 9,475 feet), and total snow on the ground at that location was 58 inches.

There were also 12 new inches of snow at the Colorado River Trailhead (8,990' elevation) on the west side of the park, and it was still snowing heavily as of 11:20 a.m. on both sides of the park.

The park staff takes daily snow measurements at Bear Lake during the winter season, and has been doing so since 1983. That information is important because of the critical role winter snow plays in summer moisture for not only the park, but for a vast area downstream from the Rockies.

So, how are things looking thus far in 2013?

According to Patterson, since 1983 "average snowfall totals taken at Bear Lake from November through April has been 226.83 inches. Prior to today we were at 142.9 inches with only two weeks remaining in April. So not quite an exact comparison (nor an exact measurement as we missed a week during the Fern Lake Fire of taking measurements this year)—but that gives you an idea of where we stood at Bear Lake prior to this snowfall. We were down significantly from our average snowfall."

Those measurements are in line with similar reports throughout the Colorado Rockies. Snowpack data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service for the Upper Colorado River Basin show this year's snow water equivalent is about 73 percent of normal, but those figures don't include this week's storm—and the numbers are certainly better than those at this same time last year.

Some local residents may be growing weary of shoveling the white stuff, but with summer fast approaching, in the big scheme of things the word for mid-April is... "Let it snow!"

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