Drought news: ‘If you don’t have water, nothing grows’ — said Chuck Hanagan (FSA) #CODrought

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Gayle Perez):

The record high temperatures combined with a lack of precipitation has created a dire situation for some farmers, particularly in the Arkansas Valley. “If you don’t have water, nothing grows,” said Chuck Hanagan, county executive director of Otero/Crowley Farm Services Agency.

He said the combination of record heat, a lack of rain and a diminishing snowpack has led to dismal conditions for farmers. Hanagan said there are many Eastern Plains farmers who have left their fields fallow this year. “When you drive from Fowler to Kansas, you see more open ground,” he said. “You can see green here or there from those who have a well. They’re holding on a little better.”

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

In parts of northwest Colorado, drought conditions were upgraded to exceptional, the most severe category of drought, indicating extremely low stream flows, soil moisture and vegetation conditions. Much of the rest of the state is now in the severe drought category, including nearly all of the West Slope, the central mountains including the Continental Divide and big chunk of the eastern plains.

The arrival of monsoon moisture should help at least start nibbling away at drought conditions in patches where heavy rain falls from passing thunderstorms.

Including only at the 48 contiguous states, 55.96 percent of the country’s land area is in moderate drought or worse — also the highest percentage on record in that regard, officials said. The previous highs had been 54.79 percent on Aug. 26, 2003, and 54.63 percent on Sept. 10, 2002. “The recent heat and dryness is catching up with us on a national scale,” said Michael J. Hayes, director of the National Drought Mitigation Center at UNL. “Now, we have a larger section of the country in these lesser categories of drought than we’ve previously experienced in the history of the Drought Monitor.”

From the Ag Journal (Candace Krebs):

The unusually mild spring, coupled with a recent wave of unprecedented summer heat, has sapped the area of moisture. “If the trend continues, we’re on target to set a record for the warmest year — ever,” adds Wayne Shawcroft, a retired CSU irrigation agronomist based at Akron’s Central Great Plains Research Station.

Across the High Plains, dryness and heat are feeding off of each other in a vicious cycle that culminated recently in a long series of triple-digit days, stoking dozens of forest fires along the Front Range and accelerating drought conditions with little relief in sight.

“Historically the hottest weather occurs when it is already dry,” said Colorado State Climatologist Nolan Doesken, based in Fort Collins. “The very existence of the lack of moisture and vegetation is very consistent with seeing temperatures soar.”

Don’t assume the smoke spewing up into the atmosphere from the region’s fires will seed the formation of rain droplets, Doesken adds. Opinions vary on whether particulate matter in the air helps or hurts.
“Back in 2002, it was theorized that the widespread smoke from large fires suppressed thunderstorms and reduced their ability to make heavy rains,” he said. “The heavy smoke in the air probably is affecting conditions a bit, but what that effect is isn’t very clear.”

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