Aspen Journalism is compiling a data dashboard highlighting metrics of local public interest, updated at least weekly by mid-day Tuesday.
Snowpack at Independence Pass down to 84% of average
“We are half way through the winter season and scientists are skeptical that we can make up the precipitation needed to quench thirsty soils and vegetation, and provide a robust spring runoff,” noted the Roaring Fork Conservancy’s Snowpack & River report released on Feb. 10.
SNOTEL sites that monitor snowfall throughout the winter measured the snowpack at Independence Pass at 84.7% of average on Feb. 13, with a “snow water equivalent” (SWE) of 9.49 inches. With volume up only slightly since last week, the size of the snowpack relative to the 30-year average is down from 90.4% on Feb. 6. Last year on Feb. 13, the SNOTEL station up the pass recorded an SWE of 9.02 inches.
The monitoring station at the lower-elevation McClure Pass recorded an SWE of 9.02 inches, or 75.8% of average, on Feb. 13. A week before, the station also reported 9.09 inches of water contained in the snowpack, or 82.7% of average. Last year, on that same day, the station measured a snowpack holding 9.09 inches of water, or 76.4% of average.
On the northeast side of the Roaring Fork Basin, snowpack at Ivanhoe contains higher water levels than the 1991-2020 average, with 10.91 inches on Feb. 13, which is 104.9% of the average of 10.4 inches. It’s also up from last year’s 10.2 inches of SWE.
Snowpack at Schofield Pass reached 25.39 inches on Feb. 13, which represents 114.4% of average. Schofield Pass, which sits at an elevation of 10,700 feet between Marble and Crested Butte, has gained over 15 inches of SWE since Dec. 23.
Snow water equivalent — the metric used to track snowpack — is the amount of water contained within the snowpack, which will become our future water supply running in local rivers and streams.
Lake Powell surface elevation down to 3,529
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced on Jan. 7 that 350,000 acre-feet of water will be held back in Lake Powell from January to April instead of being released downstream to Lake Mead. The 350,000 acre-feet of water will reach Lake Mead later this year, between June and September after the spring runoff occurs.
“Without the changes to monthly water releases, the reservoir’s elevation was projected to steadily decline below the target elevation through the winter months,” a bureau press release noted.
Lake Powell‘s storage reached its lowest level recorded since it began filling in the 1960s and ’70s on Feb. 13, when the reservoir was 25.49% of full.
Last week, on Feb. 6, the reservoir was 25.76% of full. The reservoir’s capacity has fallen since last year, when on Feb. 13, 2021, the reservoir was 38.83% of full.
The surface elevation of Lake Powell is only four feet above the target elevation of 3,525 feet as it hit a record low on Feb. 13, 2022, when the reservoir’s elevation dropped to 3,529.4 feet, or 170.6 feet from full pool. The reservoir has lost one foot since Feb. 6, when the elevation was at 169.6 feet from full pool. Last year, on Feb. 13, the reservoir reached 3,574.11 feet or 125.89 feet from full pool.
Clean air quality reported in Aspen last week
The air quality in Aspen was “good” this past week. The AQI index for ozone ranged from 42 on Feb. 10 to 47 on Feb. 12.
Early February saw a sharp temperature drop in Aspen
Temperatures dropped in early February from a high of 39°F on Jan. 31, which is about six degrees above normal, to a high of 17°F on Feb. 3, which is about 16 degrees below normal, according to temperatures recorded at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport. Then, the maximum temperature went back up to 41°F on Feb. 9. The minimum dropped from 7°F on Feb. 1 to -12°F on Feb. 3, which is about 19 degrees below normal, before going back up to 16°F on Feb. 10.
- Colorado’s Division of Water Resources
- Bureau of Reclamation
- Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District
- Aspen Global Change Institute