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From the Trinidad Times (Steve Block):
The water situation in the Purgatoire River Valley looks pretty grim at the moment. The Trinidad area remains in the grip of a persistent drought, currently rated as D4, meaning exceptional drought conditions.
About 21 percent of Colorado is experiencing D4 drought conditions, including most of the Eastern Plains, according to State Climatologist Nolan Doesken.
Doesken said D4 conditions work the greatest economic hardship on crop production and cattle sales in southeastern Colorado.
“Exceptional drought, D4, is equal to the kind of situation you’d only see once in any 50-year time period,” Doesken said. “This is not unlike the extreme conditions that eastern Colorado had in the early and mid-1950s and back in the 1930s.”
Doesken said that in mid-March 89 percent of the state was in severe or worse drought conditions. Drought conditions continue to spread throughout the West, as statistics from the U.S. Drought Monitor showed that about 2.94 percent of the western U.S. is experiencing D4 conditions as of April 2, up from about 0.94 percent at the same time in 2012. Colorado’s Eastern plains and eastern Wyoming showed the greatest prevalence of D4 conditions, according to the drought monitor.
Drought conditions are expected to persist at least throughout the end of June, according to data released on April 4 from the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center.
From the Summit County Citizen’s Voice (Bob Berwyn):
Last summer’s crippling Great Plains drought can’t definitively be linked with global warming, according to a team of federal scientists from various agencies. In a new report issued this week, the researchers said the drought was probably caused by a confluence of natural climate variations that might only come together in a similar constellation once a century.
Cyclical variations in ocean temperatures — especially the combination of a cooler-than-average Pacific Ocean and a warm phase of the North Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation may have nudged the region toward drought conditions, but those factors tend to be more of a factor in suppressing winter precipitation.
And background global warming may increase the chances of high temperatures to begin with, but the research team couldn’t find a direct link between the drought and global warming — in fact, the region hit hardest by the drought has been a kind of global warming “hole” in the past few decades, said lead author Dr. Marty Hoerling, a researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“The dominant control in this region is the amount of precipitation. When it’s dry, the ground gets really hot … This is one of those events that comes along once every couple hundreds of years,” Hoerling said, adding that the lack of El Niño conditions in the past 10 years may have been another small factor.