Snowpack in Buffalo Park on Rabbit Ears Pass is 134 percent of median
Steamboat Springs — It’s far too early in the water year, which began Oct. 1, to reach any conclusions about how much of the life-sustaining liquid will flow out of the mountains of Northwest Colorado in the spring of 2017.
But, the snowstorm that thumped the Yampa Valley Dec. 10 and 11 was a step in the right direction.
Snow-measuring sites situated in the high elevations of the Park Range east of Steamboat Springs show that the water in the snow that fell between Dec. 6 and 12, nearly doubled the amount of water in the standing snowpack.
Nowhere was the change more dramatic than at a snow-measuring site in Buffalo Park on the south side of U.S. Highway 40 on Rabbit Ears Pass at an elevation of 9,240 feet.
The standing snow there stood at 15 inches on Dec. 6 and more than doubled to 26 inches on Dec. 12. The amount of water in the snow, referred to as “snow water equivalent” or SWE by hydrologists, increased from 2.5 to 4.7 inches. That brought the total in Buffalo Park to 134 percent of median for the date.
It was a little less dramatic change on the west side of Rabbit Ears Pass, where the SWE is 94 percent of median. The Rabbit Ears site went from 20 inches of snow on Dec. 6 to 33 inches on Dec. 12, and from 3.6 inches of SWE to 6.3 inches.
Further north, at 10,500 feet elevation on Buffalo Pass, there was significant snowfall in the past week. A photograph of two snow-measuring stakes taken Dec. 13 at the Tower measuring site shows the snow was 4 feet deep, up from 20 inches, seven days earlier. But the automated snow water-measuring devices indicated the 9.8 inches of water that it held Dec. 12 was just 67 percent of median.
Buffalo Pass usually contends with Wolf Creek Pass east of Pagosa Springs in the Southern Colorado Rockies for prominence in snowpack, but the SWE there this week is also sub-par at 63 percent of median.
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