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Climatologist Says No Indication March Will Bring Extraordinary Snowfall

Feb 27, 2020

A February 2020 snowfall in Snowmass.
Credit Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

As of Wednesday, this winter’s snowpack is nearly exactly the same as it was last year. 2019’s skyrocket in snowfall totals did not begin until the first week of March. Russ Schumacher, a climatologist at Colorado State University, says that jump isn’t likely to repeat.

“At the moment, there isn’t any indication that we’re headed back for a really huge March,” Schumacher said. “But we’re still a ways out. The first half of March looks like it won’t be a huge snow accumulation like we saw last March.”

 

 

A chart from the National Resources Conservation Service shows snowpack in the Roaring Fork River basin over time. The black line represents 2020 snowpack, while the dark red line represents 2019.
Credit NRCS

Snowpack is measured in inches of snow water equivalent. According to data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Roaring Fork River basin had a snowpack total of 14.7 inches on Feb. 26, 2019 and a total of 14.2 inches on Feb. 26, 2020. Last year, that number went up to 23.3 inches in just a month.

While he thinks this spring probably won’t deliver the same snowfall as last year, Schumacher said March is generally ripe for higher snowfall totals.

“As things start to warm up towards spring,” Schumacher said. “It allows more moisture to come in. And so we will sometimes get some of those wetter storms like we had last year.”

Even with modern forecasting techniques, Schumacher says long-range weather predictions are difficult.

“Once we get out beyond a couple of weeks or so,” Schumacher said. “That’s where it’s still really challenging. We’re still at a point where it’s basically, ‘Will we be a little bit above average or near average?’ and that’s about all we can say.”