Outlook remains dry for Routt County

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— June on average is the driest month of the year in Steamboat with 1.53 inches of precipitation, but June 2012 isn’t even close to that pace.

Local weather observer Art Judson reported this week that the monthly rainfall total stands at one-tenth of an inch, and the National Weather Service in Grand Junction confirmed Wednesday that there’s nothing significant on the way.

The polar jet stream will dip toward Northwest Colorado this weekend, meteorologist Travis Booth said, but “there doesn’t appear to be any significant moisture on the way.”

The National Integrated Drought Information system still has most of Routt County under an extreme drought with pockets of milder severe drought in North Routt and the far southeastern corner of the county.

Despite the extreme designation, the June 1 outlook issued this week for the Colorado River Basin reported that going into the month, the Yampa and White river basins were among the only mountainous regions of the state that still held a little water in the snowpack.

“By June 1, the snowpack was nearly nonexistent in all of Colorado’s major basins with only four of 92 sites measuring any snow,” Mage Skordahl, of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, wrote in the report. “Basin by basin, only the Colorado, South Platte, Arkansas and combined Yampa, White and North Platte basins had any snow remaining and only at the higher elevations.”

That’s in stark contrast to early June 2011, when the snow-measuring site on the summit of Buffalo Pass northeast of Steamboat still measured 151 inches of snow.

This week, the drought monitor indicates soil in Routt County has been exceptionally dry through the first half of June, but at least in terms of streamflows, the area is better off than most despite the fact that the Yampa in downtown Steamboat was flowing at 141 cubic feet per second at midafternoon Wednesday compared with the average for the date of 2,070 cfs. The record low for June 13 was 120 cfs recorded in 1934.

Booth said the weather dynamic that is keeping the area so dry goes back to the second straight La Niña winter that kept mountain snowfall uncommonly low in late 2011 and the first four months of 2012.

The polar jet has remained to the north, favoring the Pacific Northwest and Central Rockies with moisture, Booth said. The positioning of the jet stream also is driving strong wind gusts that are extracting the last of the moisture from the soil.

However, there are early signs of relief on the way, Booth said.

“The models are hedging toward a high-pressure system setting up over the Texas Panhandle” that could allow the annual summer monsoon flow to reach Colorado in July.

That could represent a repeat of summer 2011, when June was unusually dry, though not this dry. Judson reported June 30, 2011, that the month finished with 0.77 inches of precipitation. By early July, things already had begun to change. On the morning of July 8, 2011, Judson recorded a little more than an inch of rain in the preceding 24 hours. By July 27, Steamboat was looking at its second-wettest July in history with 3.68 inches of rain.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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