Pagosa Weather FEBRUARY SUMMARY & March Outlook

Snowpack is in good shape for the West Slope!

Snowpack is in good shape for the West Slope!

Thursday – 2 Mar 2023 – 6:00pm

February Summary…

The average low for February is 9 and the average high is 42. The record high of 60 occurred on 27 February 1988. The record low of -39 occurred on 1 February 1916. Precip averages 2.02″ in February with 23.1″ of snow. Wolf Creek Pass averages 4.3″ of liquid equivalent and 68.7″ of snow.

How did we do?

The entire state had temps below average.
The entire state had temps below average.
Percent of average precip for February indicates that most of the county had below average precip.  The CoCoRaHS map below helps put this in perspective.
Percent of average precip for February indicates that most of the county had below average precip. The CoCoRaHS map below helps put this in perspective.
1 Mar 2023 am CoCRaHS Feb precip 1
CoCoRaHS precip totals for February range from 0.99″ to 2.97″ – most were below the average of 2.02″
CoCoRaHS snowfall totals for February range from 16.9" to 39.7" - 8 out of 14 reports were above the average of 23.1"
CoCoRaHS snowfall totals for February range from 16.9″ to 39.7″ – 8 out of 14 reports were above the average of 23.1″
CoCoRaHS snow depths range from 11.5" to 49". Why such a variance? It's mostly due to elevation. The three locations that have over 40" are at 8,000ft or higher.
CoCoRaHS snow depths range from 11.5″ to 49″.
Why such a variance? It’s mostly due to elevation. The three locations that have over 40″ are at or above 8,000ft.
Overall snow in February was 3″ above average. Our total so far this season is 92.4″ – slightly ahead of the average of 91.7″ for this point of the season. *A couple of notes about this graphic: 1. There are inconsistencies in our historical data. 2. The location of our historical data moved around the Pagosa Springs area. Because of our terrain, just moving a mile or two in any direction results in significant differences. 3. I’m using an average from individual monthly CoCoRaHS totals that include 60-70% of the daily reports. This is not precise but gives us a good idea where we stand.*
Overall snow in February was 3″ above average. Our total so far this season is 92.4″ – slightly ahead of the average of 91.7″ for this point of the season.
*A couple of notes about this graphic: 1. There are inconsistencies in our historical data. 2. The location of our historical data moved around the Pagosa Springs area. Because of our terrain, just moving a mile or two in any direction results in significant differences. 3. I’m using an average from individual monthly CoCoRaHS totals that include 60-70% of the daily reports. This is not precise but gives us a good idea where we stand.*
Wolf Creek reported 86" of snow in February, nearly 20" above average. For the season they're at 335", about 30" above average.
Wolf Creek reported 86″ of snow in February, nearly 20″ above average. For the season they’re at 335″, about 30″ above average.

Snowpack and Drought…

Snowpack is in good shape across most of the southern half of the western US and ok in the northern half. This is the opposite of what nearly everyone expected of a La Nina winter.
Snowpack is in good shape across most of the southern half of the western US and ok in the northern half. This is the opposite of what nearly everyone expected of a La Nina winter.
Our southwest San Juan Mountain river basins are at 140%. Wolf Creek Summit is at 134% and Upper San Juan is at 129%. As we get into the second half of the season, I start paying more attention to that last column. If no more snow fell – boooo hissss! – the Upper San Juan would finish at 104% of its season average and the Wolf Creek Summit would finish at 92%. The third column from the right is the "median peak date". Snowpack tends to peak 9 Apr for the Upper San Juan and 29 Apr for Wolf Creek summit. We've got plenty of time to keep adding to our snowpack!
Our southwest San Juan Mountain river basins are at 140%. Wolf Creek Summit is at 134% and Upper San Juan is at 129%.
As we get into the second half of the season, I start paying more attention to that last column. If no more snow fell – boooo hissss! – the Upper San Juan would finish at 104% of its season average and the Wolf Creek Summit would finish at 92%.
The third column from the right is the “median peak date”. Snowpack tends to peak 9 Apr for the Upper San Juan and 29 Apr for Wolf Creek summit. We’ve got plenty of time to keep adding to our snowpack!
Most of the West Slope is drought-free but a few small areas of "abnormally dry" still remain. Eastern Colorado is not doing as well. In spite of well above average snow for CA, NV, and UT, drought conditions persist.
Most of the West Slope is drought-free but a few small areas of “abnormally dry” still remain. Eastern Colorado is not doing as well.
In spite of well above average snow for CA, NV, and UT, drought conditions persist.

March outlook…

The average low for March is 15 and the average high is 49. The record high of 73 occurred on 19 March 1907. The record low of -25 occurred on 1 March 1913. Precip averages 1.77″ in March with 19.5″ of snow. Wolf Creek Pass averages 4.9″ of liquid equivalent and 75.8″ of snow.

The Climate Prediction Center temperature outlook for March on the left indicates “leaning below” average temps. The precip outlook on the right indicates “leaning above” average precip.
The Climate Prediction Center temperature outlook for March on the left indicates “leaning below” average temps.
The precip outlook on the right indicates “leaning above” average precip.
Euro ensemble precip on the left expects 3.64" of precip for March. GFS ensemble precip on the right expects 4.96" of precip for March. Both expect considerably more than average of 1.77".
Euro ensemble precip on the left expects 3.64″ of precip for March. GFS ensemble precip on the right expects 4.96″ of precip for March. Both expect considerably more than average of 1.77″.

And what do we expect?

Arleen is the expert and this is what she expects…

March came in like a lion and we’re not sure it will leave like a lamb. We are still under the influence of the enhanced MJO sector which should influence systems impacting us the second week of March. The waters in the equatorial areas have warmed and the ENSO is now neutral. The polar front jet and associated lows and frontal systems should be progressing in the northern hemisphere on a regular basis – every 4 days to 10 days. At the same time we still have the potential for a Arctic Atmosphere stratosphere warming event resulting in a cold air outbreak and temperatures below average with deeper lows. On the other hand, the earth is tipping back towards the sun, our days are longer, and our temperatures are warming. Snow will be melting faster and we’ll start to see more rain/mixed precip in the lower elevations. For March we’ll see just above average precipitation and cooler temperatures than average.

A HUGE thanks for your precip reports and pictures! Reports help verify our forecasts and make us better forecasters.

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I’ve been a “weather geek” since I was young child. I joined the military out of high school and was lucky to get my dream job in weather. I have 20 years of military weather experience which includes forecasting the weather all over the world. Highlights were six years in Alaska and making life and death weather decisions during deployments. I love mountains, I love snow, and I love summertime thunderstorms. I spend a bunch of time playing outdoors and found my paradise in Pagosa Springs. I do Pagosa Weather as a community service. Hopefully you find us helpful!
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2 Responses

  1. This is an awesome and richly informative report. Thanks for all the work you guys do!!!

    It is nice to see at least relatively good precipitation news but either way it is great to have the info.

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