Pagosa Weather APRIL SUMMARY & May Outlook

Snowpack looks good for the West Slope but eastern Colorado could use a couple of big spring storms.

Snowpack looks good for the West Slope but eastern Colorado could use a couple of big spring storms.

Monday – 1 May 2023 – 11:00am

April Summary…

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.

How did we do?

Temps were below average for Archuleta County and the West Slope. That's 4 months in a row with below average temps for Archuleta County.
Temps in April were below average for Archuleta County and the West Slope. That’s 4 months in a row with below average temps for Archuleta County.
Our precip spigot shut off in April.  Archuleta County was well below average.
Our precip spigot shut off in April. Archuleta County was well below average.
CoCoRaHS precip totals for April range from 0.09" to 0.79" - lower than the 1.38" average
CoCoRaHS precip totals for April range from 0.09″ to 0.79″ – lower than the 1.38″ average
CoCoRaHS snowfall totals for April range from 0.8" to 5.6" - less than the 6.3" average
CoCoRaHS snowfall totals for April range from 0.8″ to 5.6″ – less than the 6.3″ average
Snowfall in April was nearly 3″ below average. The total for the season is 124.7″ – 24.4″ above the average of 100.3″.
*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.*
Snowfall in April was nearly 3″ below average. The total for the season is 124.7″ – 24.4″ above the average of 100.3″.
*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.*
Wolf Creek got 10″ of snow before they closed on 9 Apr. They ended their season with 490″.
Wolf Creek got 10″ of snow before they closed on 9 Apr. They ended their season with 490″.

Snowpack, Drought, River flow, and lake levels…

Snowpack is still well above average for much of the western US. Our nearby basins are still at 196%. Note: The data often gets exaggerated late in the season. Can you spot 2 good examples?
Snowpack is still well above average for much of the western US. Our nearby basins are still at 196%. Note: The data often gets exaggerated late in the season. Can you spot 2 good examples?
The Upper San Juan is currently at 177% for 30 Apr and 142% of its seasonal average. Wolf Creek Summit is currently at 123% for 30 Apr and 119% of its seasonal average. There are two good examples in this table of late season data getting exaggerated: Columbine Pass and Mancos. The Columbine Pass sensor is at 9,171ft elevation.  It's lower elevation results in most of its snowpack usually being melted by this time of year. It's normally at 2.4" snow water equivalent (SWE) on 30 Apr, but it currently has 33.7" SWE, or 1,404% of average. Mancos is normally at 1.8" SWE on 30 Apr, but it currently has 16.6" SWE, or 922% of average.
The Upper San Juan is currently at 177% for 30 Apr and 142% of its seasonal average. Wolf Creek Summit is currently at 123% for 30 Apr and 119% of its seasonal average.

There are two good examples in this table of late season data getting skewed: Columbine Pass and Mancos. The Columbine Pass sensor is at 9,171ft elevation. It’s lower elevation results in most of its snowpack usually being melted by this time of year. It’s normally at 2.4″ snow water equivalent (SWE) on 30 Apr, but it currently has 33.7″ SWE, or 1,404% of average. Mancos is normally at 1.8″ SWE on 30 Apr, but it currently has 16.6″ SWE, or 922% of average.
The entire West Slope of Colorado is drought free! Eastern Colorado still has a ways to go. Nearly half, 47%, of the western US is drought free. There has been a 9% improvement in the last month when 36% of the western US was drought free.
The entire West Slope of Colorado is drought free! Eastern Colorado still has a ways to go.

Nearly half, 47%, of the western US is drought free. There has been a 9% improvement in the last month when 36% of the western US was drought free.
San Juan River flow, top, had a low of 100cfs on 1 Apr and a peak of 2,740cfs last night. Piedra River flow, bottom, had a low of 211cfs on 1 Apr and 4,110cfs on 14 Apr. Both have been well above the mean since the second week of April.
San Juan River flow, top, had a low of 100cfs on 1 Apr and a peak of 2,740cfs last night. Piedra River flow, bottom, had a low of 211cfs on 1 Apr and 4,110cfs on 14 Apr. Both have been well above the mean since the second week of April.
Overall, lakes in the upper Colorado River Basin are at 64.9%. A month ago they were at 59.3%. Navajo Reservoir is at 65.7% - an 11.6% improvement in the last month. The peak inflow to Navajo Reservoir so far this season has been 7,060cfs on 14 April. It has risen 28 feet since its low in late February!
Overall, lakes in the upper Colorado River Basin are at 64.9%. A month ago they were at 59.3%.

Navajo Reservoir is at 65.7% – an 11.6% improvement in the last month. The peak inflow to Navajo Reservoir so far this season has been 7,060cfs on 14 April. It has risen 28 feet since its low in late February!

There is still a lot of water locked up in the snowpack. I think lakes across much of the western US will continue to rise well into June.

May Outlook…

The average low for May is 30 and the average high is 68. The record high of 89 occurred on 30 May 1910. The record low of 8 occurred on 1 May 1967. Precip averages 1.26″ in May with 1.1″ of snow – our second driest month. Wolf Creek Pass averages 2.05″ of liquid equivalent and 12.9″ of snow.

The Climate Prediction Center temperature outlook for May on the left indicates “equal chances” for average temps.
The precip outlook on the right indicates “equal chances” for average p
The Climate Prediction Center temperature outlook for May on the left indicates “equal chances” for average temps.
The precip outlook on the right indicates “equal chances” for average precip.
The Euro ensemble, on the left, expects 2.16" of precip near Pagosa Springs for May while the GFS ensemble, on the right, expects 2.95".  Both expect more than the average of 1.26".
The Euro ensemble, on the left, expects 2.16″ of precip near Pagosa Springs for May while the GFS ensemble, on the right, expects 2.95″. Both expect more than the average of 1.26″.

And what do we expect?

Arleen is the expert and this is what she expects…

Welcome to spring! May is our second driest month of the year as the polar front jet slowly slips north taking with it areas of low pressure and frontal systems. We’ll see a weak system the end of this week and another in the third week in May. There won’t be strong enough dynamics to give us significant precipitation. We’ll have average precipitation for the month. Temperatures will also be average as we stay under primarily zonal flow.

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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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