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Roaring Fork Valley Phenology | May 11, 2015

2015 marks the fourth year ACES has tracked the seasons with repeat photography. It is so easy to forget what happened even just last year, and the pictures remind us of what previous years looked like. Couple the pictures with data, and a story emerges.

Below are our traditional photos of Aspen Mountain on May 9th. Why May 9th? Well, lots of things happen in Aspen around this time. Garter snakes, hummingbirds, swallows, warblers, chipmunks, are all around and active. Bluebells, larkspur, and serviceberry are blooming. Cottonwood and aspen are shedding sticky sheaths and beginning to expose bright green leaves. Lastly, the snowmelt begins in earnest.

We tried to get a photo this year on May 9th, but a significant snowstorm prohibited it (this year's photo was taken on May 8). Is this type of storm rare? Is there more or less snow in the high country as in past years? Below, look at the snow water equivalent graph from the Independence Pass Snotel Site. 2012-2015 are shown, along with the 1981-2010 median. At this time in 2015 we are well ahead of the drought year of 2012, even with the median and 2013, and behind the above average year of 2014. Look closely at the second week in May for 2013, 2014, and 2015 and you can see the signature of spring storms this time of year. 

~ Jim Kravitz, Director of Naturalist Programs