With Colorado’s snowpack ranging from ample to exceptional this spring, hikers who adore wildflowers may already be envisioning days of strolling along lush landscapes of spectacular blooms under columbine-blue skies when all that snow melts.
It could well happen this summer. But because several factors affect the quality of wildflower seasons, and some of them have yet to play out, experts say it’s too soon to predict whether wildflower viewing will be good this year or great. It depends on what happens over the next few weeks.
“The mountains are probably going to have a pretty good year,” said Thomas Bates, a plant ecologist for the Arapaho and Roosevelt national forests, which encompass the northern Front Range high country. “The critical time is not now, because there’s still snow. It’s that three to six weeks after the snow melts. We have ample moisture, but it does depend on how that moisture comes off — in the timing, and the rate.”
A hot spell would speed up the rate of snowmelt, perhaps with detrimental effects. If temperatures are cool, or conditions are too wet, blooms could be delayed. Warmth with low humidity could mean some of the snowpack will evaporate without becoming liquid, a process called sublimation.
“That can eat up a lot of the moisture,” Bates said. “If you have really dry atmospheres, that’s going to prevent water from getting into the system. If it melts too fast and runs off without soaking in, that’s going to have an effect.”
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