Aspen Journalism is compiling a data dashboard highlighting metrics of local public interest, updated at least every Tuesday. Check back for updates as we add more features.
Snowpack tracking behind last year
Snowpack in the Roaring Fork Watershed declined over the past week, going from 80% to 67% of normal, according to the Roaring Fork Conservancy’s snowpack report of Dec. 2.
SNOTEL sites that monitor snowfall throughout the winter show the snowpack at Independence Pass at 70.9% of average on Dec. 5 with a “snow water equivalent” (SWE) of 3.19 inches. The week prior, the monitoring station recorded 3.11 inches of SWE, which measured in at 79.7% of average. Last year on Dec. 5, the SNOTEL station up the pass recorded an SWE of 3.39 inches.
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.
The monitoring station at McClure Pass recorded an SWE of 0.39 inches, or 11.6% of average, on Dec. 5. A week before, the station reported 0.91 inches of water with the snowpack, or 33.5% of average. Last year, on that same day, the station measured a snowpack holding 1.89 inches of water, or 55.6% of average.
On the other side of the Roaring Fork Basin, snowpack at Ivanhoe contains nearly as much water than the 1991-2020 average with 3.7 inches on Dec. 5, compared to an average of 3.9 inches.
Local streamflows dropped last week
The USGS gauge on the Roaring Fork near Aspen at Stillwater, located upstream of town, measured streamflow at 15 cfs on Dec. 5, which represents 51.7% of average. A week before, the river was flowing at 16.3 cfs. On Dec. 5, 2020, the river ran at 19 cfs.
The ACES gauge, located near the Mill Street Bridge in central Aspen, measured the Roaring Fork at an average of 19.24 cfs on Dec. 5, down from 20.08 cfs on Nov. 28. The river ran at 20.21 cfs on that day last year.
The Crystal River above Avalanche Creek, near Redstone, flowed at 56 cfs, or 97.1% of average on Dec. 5, which is down from 62 cfs on Nov. 28. That’s up 47% from the streamflow last year, when the river ran at 38 cfs on Dec. 5, 2020. The Crystal River at the CPW Fish Hatchery bridge ran at 61.1 cfs on Dec. 5. That puts the river below the minimum instream flow set at 100 cfs set by the 1979 water rights decree.
Water levels at Lake Powell keep getting lower
Lake Powell could potentially fall below minimum power pool in 2022, which is an elevation of 3,490 feet, according to the U.S Bureau of Reclamation. “Should extremely dry hydrology continue into next year, Lake Powell could reach elevation 3,490 feet as early as July 2022,” the press release noted.
Lake Powell‘s storage kept getting lower this past week, reaching its lowest level recorded since it began filling in the 1960s and ’70s on Dec. 2, when the reservoir was 28.76% of full. Data for Dec. 5 was not available at the time of writing.
Last week, on Nov. 28, the reservoir was 28.8% of full. The reservoir’s capacity has fallen since last year, when on Dec. 2, 2020, the reservoir was 43.52% of full.
The surface elevation of Lake Powell is also in decline and hit a record low on Dec. 2, 2021, when the reservoir’s elevation dropped to 3,541.5 feet, or 158.5 feet from full pool. The reservoir has lost five inches since Nov. 28, when the elevation was at 158 feet from full pool. Last year, on Dec. 2, the reservoir reached 3,587.39 feet or 112.61 feet from full pool.
Air temperature in Aspen up to 23 degrees above normal
Last week, Aspen experienced a temperature increase, from a high of 36°F on Nov. 24, which is about 0.9 degrees below normal, to a high of 58°F on Nov. 29, which is 23.1 degrees above normal. Minimum temperature also jumped from 9°F on Nov. 25 to 25°F on Nov. 29 — the latter being 13.3 degrees above normal.
Aspen keeps breathing ‘good’ air quality
The air quality in Aspen was “good” this past week. The AQI index ranged from 31 on Nov. 29 for ozone to 42 for PM2.5 on Dec. 3.
- Colorado’s Division of Water Resources
- Bureau of Reclamation
- Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District
- Aspen Global Change Institute