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Denver's abridged winter mirrors a shortened snowpack season

A snowy mountain range with snow-covered trees scattered throughout.
KUNM / Ed Williams
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If it doesn’t snow again in Denver soon, this will be the city's shortest snow season on record, according to the National Weather Service Boulder/Denver and local meteorologist Andy Stein. And Denver's dearth of snow reflects a more consequential climate trend – the Mountain West's shortening season for accumulating mountain snowpack.

Becky Bolinger with the Colorado Climate Center says Colorado had the best snowpack season among other states in the region, but it's still below average, as Natural Resources Conservation Service data shows.

A lot of other regions are well below average and they’ve peaked a little bit early probably," Bolinger said. "We’re not going to get a normal snowpack season for most of the West.”

She says the Northern Rockies have about 70% of their average snowpack while some areas in New Mexico merely accumulated half of the norm.

With winter setting in later and spring arriving earlier, Bolinger says it’s harder for states to recover from poor seasons. And less snow foretells more wildfires and bad air quality – and other downstream effects on everything ranging from agriculture to fishery health and recreation.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2022 KUNM. To see more, visit KUNM.

Emma Gibson
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