So far, so good, Colorado.
As you know, the snow that falls in the Colorado Rockies is vital for agriculture needs and human consumption. So, tracking the snowpack and the amount of water that the snow holds is very important. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Natural Resources Conservation Service of Colorado tracks the snow that falls in Colorado, and what we have currently in Colorado is a very healthy snowpack.
Currently, Colorado's snowpack is 123 percent of normal which means, compared to other years, we are running 23 percent above where we would normally expect our snowpack levels to be. That is great news!
What you will notice in the above tweet is that all river basins in Colorado are currently above normal in terms of the snowpack. More impressive, the San Juans in southwestern Colorado are sitting at 131 percent of average. This is good for them because the San Juans have been infamous for bad snowpack and drought levels over the last few years. With a healthy storm cycle impacting Colorado this winter so far, climate scientists and meteorologists are excited to see these numbers.
Another way we can track snowpack is to look at a chart of this year's snowpack compared to the average and compared to snowpack values of years' past.
This is a fun way to check on snowpack numbers because it shows you what our current water year looks like and compares it to what is expected, as well as compares it to the last three water years. So far, this water year is higher than the average and than any snowpack we have seen since 2017. That's thanks to some very healthy snowstorms that have hit Colorado since September.
Snowpack is measured by how much water is being held in the snow. What I mean by this is, if you took a hollow pipe and stuck it in the snow all the way down to the ground surface and then melted down the snow that's in that pipe, what you would end up with is the snow water equivalent. That's the important part of snowpack because, as melting begins to occur, rivers, and reservoirs fill up, so it's very beneficial to know just how much liquid water is being held in the snow.
Another parameter we look out to tell how well we are doing, in terms of moisture, is the drought monitor. The U.S. Drought Monitor started in 2000 and has been tracking drought ever since. In Colorado, drought is pretty normal. In fact, up until this year, there has never been a time that Colorado has not been under some sort of drought. In May and June, thanks to an active spring and summer, Colorado saw its first drought-free record in drought history. That ended as the summer began to dry out.
The current drought map of Colorado was updated on December 31, 2019. This map is updated weekly showing differences in drought conditions not just in Colorado but across the country. Most of northeast Colorado, including Denver, is drought-free right now! However, drought conditions persist in just under 70 percent of the state, with the worst drought conditions occurring on the Western Slope near Grand Junction and across southwestern Colorado near Durango. Areas around Colorado Springs and Pueblo are also experiencing drought, though, it's not as severe as areas to the west of them.
Overall, the weather that happens in Colorado is very important not just for us, but also for residents situated all across the southwestern United States. That's why so many parameters are closely watched and tracked. Stay tuned for more drought updates and snowpack updates.