2015-2016 snowpack comparison: What a difference a year makes

Water and Climate Update
January 28, 2016

The Natural Resources Conservation Service produces this weekly report using data and products from the National Water and Climate Center and other agencies. The report focuses on seasonal snowpack, precipitation, temperature, and drought conditions in the U.S.

We are currently about halfway through the snow accumulation season in the West. A comparison of snowpack conditions now versus those of a year ago reveals some significant contrasts.
In the Cascades and Sierra, there was virtually little to no snow in 2015, whereas this year, snowpacks are near to above normal.
Similarly, snowpacks were well below normal in the Southwest (including the circled area of Arizona but also parts of Utah and Colorado to the north) in 2015, whereas now they are above normal.
In Wyoming, we see the opposite contrast. Near to above normal snowpacks in 2015 are well below normal this year. Open the report>>

2015 is By Far the Warmest Year on Record

2015 is By Far the Warmest Year on Record
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service sent this bulletin at 01/21/2016 02:32 PM EST

Natural Resources Conservation Service

Weekly Water and Climate Update

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Weekly Water and Climate Update
January 21, 2016

The Natural Resources Conservation Service produces this weekly report using data and products from the National Water and Climate Center and other agencies. The report focuses on seasonal snowpack, precipitation, temperature, and drought conditions in the U.S.

From the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: The January–December map of temperature anomalies shows that warmer-than-average temperatures occurred across the vast majority of the globe during 2015, combining to bring overall record warmth for 2015, at 0.90°C (1.62°F) above the 20th century average. This easily surpasses the previous record set just last year by 0.16°C (0.29°F). The global temperatures were strongly influenced by the strong El Niño conditions that developed during the year. The 2015 temperature also marks the largest margin by which an annual temperature record has been broken. Prior to this year, the largest margin occurred in 1998, when the annual temperature surpassed the record set in 1997 by 0.12°C (0.22°F). Incidentally, 1997 and 1998 were the last years in which a similarly strong El Niño was occurring. The annual temperature anomalies for 1997 and 1998 were 0.51°C (0.92°F) and 0.63°C (1.13°F), respectively, above the 20th century average, both much lower than the 2015 temperature. Read more>>


2016 Western Slope Soil Health Conference is right around the corner.

Early registration of the 2016 Western Slope Soil Health Conference ends on January 29, 2016

Sponsorship Packages Available.

CALL 970-874-4992 for more information or find additional information on the web at

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Western Snowpack Report February 2015

The Gunnison Basin is at roughly 77% of average for the 2015 Water Year (Starting Oct 1st of 2014). Water Year to date



















However it has been a very dry January with a 41% of normal precip for that month.  February is looking dry as well, so we may be in for a dry summer.  Stay tuned.

January Precip

Cover Crop Tour Covers Lower Gunnison and Lower Uncompahgre Valleys

On Oct. 29, 2013 the second annual cover crop tour of the Uncompahgre and Gunnison valleys was held despite some unsettled weather.   The tour was organized and led by soil health team member, local composter, and farmer Jack Graff, along with Shavano Conservation District Irrigation Specialist and soil health team member Jerry Allen and Delta Conservation District Irrigation Specialist John Miller.

The event began with a stop at an Excelsior Orchards in Paonia, Colorado.  Owner and operator Paul Maudlin conducted a tour of his operation, where the group viewed a variety of different fruit trees, cover crop mixes, and ages of cover crop stands.  Mr. Maudlin uses cover crops as permanent vegetation, inter-seeded between tree rows to help reduce moisture loss and improve natural fertility. 

Mr. Maudlin also showed the group his micro jet irrigation system including the emitters and where he introduces products into his lines.  Excelsior Orchards uses combinations of compost teas, sulfuric acid, and liquid fertilizers applied through the irrigation system.  Mr. Maudlin related that the use of sulfuric acid has reduced the pH of his irrigation water from around 8.0 to near neutral and has resulted in fertilizers savings, as soil pH has gone down and soil nutrients have become more available at the lower pH levels.

The next stop in the tour was at Zack’s Barbecue in Paonia, for lunch, sponsored by Delta County Economic Development. From there the tour travelled west for a stop at Jack Graff’s farm, in Delta, where the group got to see a nice stand of 7-way mix, consisting of oats, tillage radish, purple top turnip, sunflower, proso millet, vetch, and spring pea.  

After Jack’s the tour moved south and west to Peagreen, where a similar mix to Jack’s was seen on a field farmed by Ahlberg Farms. Ahlberg’s cover crop after early sweet corn was a featured stop in last year’s tour.  The Ahlbergs were so pleased with last year’s results that he has almost tripled the number of cover crop acres under his farming operations this year.

The tour continued to roll south and in a rain squall got to view the cover crop mix on Brent Hines’ operation.  This 6 way mix featured sorghum-sudan, triticale, purple top turnips, nitro radishes, hairy vetch, and spring pea was planted in mid-August following sweet corn.

The final stop of the day was on a another field farmed by the Ahlbergs and featured a 10-way mix of peas, lentils, sorghum-sudan, pearl millet, oats, nitro radish, purple top turnip, rapeseed, sunflower, and buckwheat.  Like the other stops in the tour on fields planted after cash crops, the cover crop stand was growing vigorously with an almost 100 percent ground cover and vertical plant growth of two feet or more, with some of the species in the mix having a potential of 2 to 4 weeks of additional growth before being killed by hard freezes.

Nineteen people participated in this year’s cover crop tour, down a bit from last year.  However, the interest in using cover crops is beginning to take off here in the two valleys.  Total number of acres of cover crop plantings, after cash crops, is estimated to have more than doubled from last year.  From monocultures featuring triticale or sorghum-sudan, to 10 or 12 way mixes, the use of cover crops after harvest of early sweet corn or other crops such as wheat, is starting to spread across the area’s farming community.  These cover crops are utilized with a multiple number of benefits in mind, including use as a green manure to increase soil carbon and soil nutrients, to enhancing soil attributes such as improving soil structure and breaking up compacted layers, to mining deeper soil nutrients and tying up nutrients, reducing loss through deep percolation and having additional nutrients and soil carbon for use next growing season, to providing grazing opportunities for livestock.

Cover crop use in the area helps to address three of the basic soil health principles; keeping a living root, diversify crops, and keeping the ground covered. These cash-cropped fields in the past have usually been left fallow after harvest until next growing season.  In the past they have also been often disked and left with bare exposed soil surfaces for 8 months.

On a related note; the area’s soil health team would like to extend an invitation to attend the fourth annual soil health conference, scheduled for January 23rd and 24th.  Last year’s two-day conference was attended by over 200 participants daily.  This year’s conference main themes will be cover crops and strip tillage equipment for use under furrow irrigation. Some of the featured speakers for the conference will be on the first day, Brendon Rocky, from Rocky Farms in the San Luis Valley, Gail Fuller, producer from Emporia, Kansas, and Keith Burns from Green Cover Seed in Nebraska.  The theme for the day will be Cover Crops.  On Friday, featured speakers will be Dave Zimmerer representing Schlagel Equipment out of Wyoming, Dave and Mike Peterson from Orthman Equipment out of Nebraska, and Eric Wardle with CSU. 

First Colorado Snowpack Report for the 2013-2014 Snow Season 11/4/2013


Snowtel 1

Off to a really good start this year.  Hopefully the snowpack amounts will stay up there.  State median is 146% vs.  26% this time a year ago.  Of course these numbers are very preliminary and will change dramatically.