Drought news: Northwestern Colorado is getting clobbered — D3 area increased by the US Drought Monitor

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for the current US Drought Monitor map.

From the Aspen Business Journal:

The snowpack in the Colorado River basin, which includes the Roaring Fork River and its tributaries, has dropped down to 1 percent of average as of June 1, according to a news release from the National Resources Conservation Service. As of the beginning of the month, snowpack levels all across Colorado have dipped into the single digits as a percentage of average and as a percentage of last year. The statewide percentage was just 2 percent of average, with many basins reporting no measurable snow…

The weather patterns that began in March and April—warm temperatures and below average precipitation—continued throughout the month of May. The snowpack across the state is now almost completely melted out. As of June 6, the Gunnison, Colorado, Arkansas, Upper Rio Grande, and combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins were all reporting no snow, which is unusual for some of the high-country areas. The only SNOTEL site in the state with noteworthy snow remaining is the TOWER site in the Yampa River basin, which is reporting 2.8 inches of snow—just 7 percent of average.

“The mountains just did not receive the spring storms needed to boost this season’s snowpack,” said Philipps. “Our SNOTEL sites recorded below average precipitation in March, April and May throughout the state.” These conditions have contributed to the snowmelt runoff in most basins in Colorado being about a month earlier than normal this year, and streamflow volumes are forecast to be their lowest since 2002.

Meanwhile, the ditches above Fort Collins are sweeping the river today. Here’s a report from the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

A dry winter followed by a record early snowmelt and months of above normal temperatures have all of Colorado in drought conditions, and the Poudre River Basin wasn’t even the hardest hit, after early winter brought significant snows to the northern Front Range. The problem for the Poudre through Fort Collins is that there are no minimum instream flows to protect the environmental and recreational values of the river, according to Gary Wockner, director of Save The Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

The March to May spring season (5 degrees above average), and the year-to-date are both the warmest on record [ed. for the U.S.]. Taken readings from thousands of stations across the country, many adjusted to account for the influence of nearby urbanization, the temperatures are averaged to get a picture of long-term climate trends.

The warm May temperatures also contributed to the warmest-ever spring season (March – May) on record for the U.S., at 5.2 degrees above the 1901 – 2000 average and 2 degrees warmed than the previous record, set way back in 1910. At this pace, 2012 is likely to become the warmest year on record. Only Washington and Oregon reported below average temps for the month, while Idaho, Montana and Wyoming reported near-average readings. Exceptionally warm readings were reported from the Northeast across the Midwest, into the central and southern plains and as far west as Colorado, which reported its seventh-warmest May.

The spring season (March – May) as a whole marked the largest departure from seasonal norms for any such period in recorded U.S. climate history.

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