Despite temperatures in the 60s, snow on Buffalo Pass near Steamboat hangs in at 20 inches
October 23, 2013
Steamboat Springs — The temperature in Steamboat Springs reached 65 degrees under blue skies Wednesday, and already, the warmth was nibbling away at the snowpack in the Park Range east of the city. Still, the summit of Buffalo Pass at 10,700 feet northeast of Steamboat appears to have some of the deepest standing snow in the state.
A remote sensor operated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service indicated the snow at the Tower measuring site had dropped to 20 inches Wednesday, down from 22 on Monday. The snow on Buffalo Pass translated into 5 inches of water, according to the NRCS, and there was no other measuring site in the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday that came close to that water content.
Wolf Creek Pass, east of Pagosa Springs in the southernmost part of the state, often rivals Buffalo Pass for snowpack in midwinter. But the snow on Wolf Creek’s summit at 11,000 feet measured 10 inches Wednesday, down from its recent peak of 12 inches Saturday.
The mountain snowpack around the state has signaled a positive start to water year 2014, which began Oct. 1, though it is far too early to make predictions. Snow scientists typically don't begin looking ahead to the end of the winter water storage cycle until sometime in February, if then.
Steamboat Springs-based weather observer and snow expert Art Judson researched the past three water years and reports that water year 2013, ending Sept. 30, finished with 26.65 inches of precipitation. That compares to the 17.09 inches of precipitation in the drought cycle of water year 2012 and the 39.1 inches in the record snowpack water year of 2011.
The closest rival to Buffalo Pass for leader of the Colorado snowpack was west of Granby at the Never Summer measuring site, where the snow at 10,280 feet was 16 inches deep Wednesday.
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The National Weather Service is forecasting that the San Juan Mountains could see a little precipitation later this week, but the Northern Colorado Rockies are expected to stay warm and dry through the weekend.
The next low-pressure system is expected to impact the Central Rockies from Tuesday to Oct. 31, but a Weather Service meteorologist in Grand Junction called the chance of precipitation "questionable" Wednesday, adding there could be some snow produced in the northern mountains later next week.
The Weather Service is predicting the daily high temperatures in Steamboat will remain in the low 60s through Friday before slipping into the 50s for the weekend when sunny skies will continue to prevail.