Analysis of 1983 snowmelt runoff production in the Upper Colorado river basin

TitleAnalysis of 1983 snowmelt runoff production in the Upper Colorado river basin
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Conference1984
AuthorsShafer, B. A., Jensen D. T., and Jones K. C.
Conference Name52nd Annual Western Snow Conference
Series TitleProceedings of the 52nd Annual Western Snow Conference
Date PublishedApril 1984
PublisherWestern Snow Conference
Conference LocationSun Valley, Idaho
KeywordsColorado flooding, SNOTEL, Snow cover, Snowmelt runoff, Streamflow forecasting

Spring and summer streamflow for 1983 was extraordinarily high in the Colorado River Basin as well as many others in the Western United States. Streamflow forecasts in these areas were low by from 30 to 100 percent. An investigation was undertaken to examine the hydrometeorological interactions that produced the unusually high runoff and caused such large errors. The synergistic interaction of snow water equivalent, snow areal extent, temperature, precipitation, and soil moisture were evaluated. SNOTEL data combined with satellite imagery were shown to be highly valuable in interpreting the sequence of events during the runoff period. Major causes for the extreme runoff are summarized and recommendations are made for improving forecast models to better predict future events of a similar nature.