Pagosa Weather March SUMMARY & April Outlook

It's great to see all of the basins above average! The West Slope is in great shape!

It’s great to see all of the basins above average! The West Slope is in great shape!

Saturday – 1 Apr 2023 – 8:30am

March Summary…

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.

How did we do?

Temps in March were below average for the entire state.  That's two months in a row.
Temps in March were below average for the entire state. That’s two months in a row.
Precip was well above average for most of the West Slope while most eastern Colorado was well below average.
Precip was well above average for most of the West Slope while most of eastern Colorado was well below average.
CoCoRaHS precip totals for March range from 3.91" to 7.09" - well above the 1.77" average
CoCoRaHS precip totals for March range from 3.91″ to 7.09″ – well above the 1.77″ average
CoCoRaHS snow totals for March range from 13.4" to 53.8" - only two reports were below the 19.5" average
CoCoRaHS snow totals for March range from 13.4″ to 53.8″ – only two reports were below the 19.5″ average
CoCoRaHS snow depths at the end of March range from 0.7"" to 55" - the three highest reports are all over 7,900ft elevation
CoCoRaHS snow depths at the end of March range from 0.7″ to 55″ – the three highest reports are all over 7,900ft elevation
Snow water equivalent in the snowpack at the end of March ranges from 2.9" to 14.8". Those three highest amounts are impressive for this time of year!
Snow water equivalent in the snowpack at the end of March ranges from 2.9″ to 14.8″. Those three highest amounts are impressive for this time of year!
Overall snow in March was 14″ above average. Our total so far this season is 121.9″ – 27" ahead of the average of 94.8″ 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 at least 60% of the daily reports. This is not precise but gives us a good idea where we stand.*
Overall snow in March was 14″ above average. Our total so far this season is 121.9″ – 27″ ahead of the average of 94.8″ 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 at least 60% of the daily reports. This is not precise but gives us a good idea where we stand.*
1 Apr 2023 am Wolf Creek March and season snowfall totals 1
Wolf Creek got 145″ of snow in March – well above the 75.1″ average. They have 480″ for the season – 100″ above average!

Snowpack, Drought, River flow, and lake levels…

Snowpack is above average for most of the western US. It's well above average for most of the southern Rocky Mountain states. * This late in the year we're starting to see some wacky numbers. The values over about 350%, like the 700% in southern NV and 400% in southeast NM, are due to small sample sizes and low averages. We'll see more and more of this as the season comes to a close. *
Snowpack is above average for most of the western US. It’s well above average for most of the southern Rocky Mountain states.
* This late in the year we’re starting to see some wacky numbers. The values over about 350%, like the 700% in southern NV and 400% in southeast NM, are due to small sample sizes and low averages. We’ll see more and more of this as the season comes to a close. *
Our southwest San Juan Mountain river basins are at 178%. Wolf Creek Summit is at 170% and Upper San Juan is at 172%.
As the winter season winds down, I pay more attention to that last column. That's percent of "median peak". If no more snow fell the Upper San Juan would finish at 157% of its season average, Wolf Creek Summit would finish at 135%, and Weminuche Creek would finish at 195%!
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. There's still time to keep adding to our snowpack!
Our southwest San Juan Mountain river basins are at 178%. Wolf Creek Summit is at 170% and Upper San Juan is at 172%.
As the winter season winds down, I pay more attention to that last column – highlighted in red. That’s percent of “median peak”. If no more snow fell the Upper San Juan would finish at 157% of its season average, Wolf Creek Summit would finish at 135%, and Weminuche Creek would finish at 195%!
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. There’s still time to keep adding to our snowpack!
The entire West Slope of Colorado is drought free! Eastern Colorado still has a ways to go. Much of the western US still faces drought conditions.
The entire West Slope of Colorado is drought free! Eastern Colorado still has a ways to go. Much of the western US still faces drought conditions.
San Juan and Piedra River flow for March - The two spikes clearly show the two big rain/wet snow events. Also interesting is that for the last week of the month, flow has been below the median. That's because temps have been well below average which has briefly paused run-off.  In our higher elevations in the valley, roughly 7,800ft to 8,500ft, there is still a bunch of snow that needs to melt. Look at the CoCoRaHS snow depth and snowpack snow water equivalent maps above. Example: At 8,000ft just north of Turkey Springs, we have 41" of snow on the ground that contains 12.8" of water equivalent. That's a lot of water that will head downhill when we can string together a few sunny days in the 50s! And mountain run-off probably won't start for another 2 or 3 weeks.
San Juan and Piedra River flow for March – The two spikes clearly show the two big rain/wet snow events. Also interesting is that for the last week of the month, flow has been below the median. That’s because temps have been well below average which has briefly paused run-off.

In our higher elevations in the valley, roughly 7,800ft to 8,500ft, there is still a bunch of snow that needs to melt. Look at the CoCoRaHS snow depth and snowpack snow water equivalent maps above. Example: At 8,000ft just north of Turkey Springs, we have 41″ of snow on the ground that contains 12.8″ of water equivalent. That’s a lot of water that will head downhill when we can string together a few sunny days in the 50s! And mountain run-off probably won’t start for another 2 or 3 weeks.
These are Upper Colorado River Basin lake levels.  Some of these have already been increasing during March. It will be interesting to see where things stand around 1 June and 1 July.  Let's hope for substantial increases!
These are Upper Colorado River Basin lake levels. Some of these have already been increasing during March. It will be interesting to see where things stand around 1 June and 1 July. Let’s hope for substantial increases!

April outlook…

The average low for April is 24 and the average high is 59. The record high of 81 occurred on 30 Apr 1931. The record low of -4 occurred on 1 Apr 1980. Precip averages 1.38″ in April with 6.3″ of snow – our third driest month. Wolf Creek Pass averages 3.42″ of liquid equivalent and 44.8″ of snow.

The Climate Prediction Center temperature outlook for April on the left indicates “equal chances” for average temps.
The precip outlook on the right indicates “equal chances” for average precip.
The Climate Prediction Center temperature outlook for April on the left indicates “equal chances” for average temps.
The precip outlook on the right indicates “equal chances” for average precip.
Euro ensemble precip on the left expects 2.16″ of precip for April. GFS ensemble precip on the right expects 2.95″ of precip for March. Both expect more than average of 1.38″.
Euro ensemble precip on the left expects 2.16″ of precip for April. GFS ensemble precip on the right expects 2.95″ of precip for March. Both expect more than average of 1.38″.

And what do we expect?

Arleen is the expert and this is what she expects…

Awe… Transition season… What good fun! Snow is trying to melt however, we’ll see a few fresh inches throughout the month. As always, the snow will melt and the mud will take over. The first week will be unsettled with a few weak systems moving through. We’ll have about 10 dry, warm days in the middle of the month and end with a few weak systems moving though at the end of the month. April will be just about average for precipitation and temperature. Precip only averages 1.38″ in April so if just one systems over-performs, we could be above average. We’ll start out cooler than average and adjust upwards into the middle of the month. With all the snow in the high country, the afternoon winds will set up and keep us from getting too warm.

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

Another HUGE thanks to our donors and sponsors! You help cover the cost of this web page and our weather subscriptions, necessary to provide you accurate weather reports!

And if you’re curious about us, check out this excellent video by Matt Martin. We are humbled and honored that he used his talent and time to spotlight Pagosa Weather!

  • Shawn

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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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3 Responses

  1. Fantastic update Shawn! The amt of time you, Arleen, and Mark spend on keeping the rest of us informed is truly appreciated!

    1. Our pleasure! We’re very grateful to live in this wonderful community and have such great support!

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