CWCB: January 2014 Drought Update #COdrought

Click here to read the drought update from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Here’s an excerpt:

Continued precipitation across the northern half of the state has resulted in a decent start to the snow accumulation season. However, accumulation in the southern portion of the state has slowed over the last two months, with the Rio Grande and Southwest basins seeing only 26 and 23% of normal precipitation for January to date. Moderate to exceptional drought conditions remain on the eastern plains, with 15 counties recently receiving a USDA secretarial disaster designation for drought. Storage levels in all basins are better than they were this time last year; however the northern half of the state is doing better than the southern basins. Water providers are closely monitoring conditions to determine if additional actions need to be taken.

 The 2013 calendar year ended at exactly average (44.9oF) for annual average temperature, placing it as the 64th coolest on record. Records date back to 1895. January to-date has been near average for most of the state.

 Currently, 68% of the state is in some level of classification according to the US drought monitor. 46% of that is characterized as “abnormally dry” or D0, while an additional 9% is experiencing D1 or moderate drought conditions. 10% is classified as severe, 2.5% as extreme and only 1.47% of the state remains in exceptional drought. In comparison, this time last year 100% of the state was classified as experiencing severe to exceptional drought conditions.

 Fifteen counties in eastern Colorado were granted a USDA secretarial disaster designation for drought in mid-January (Sedgwick, Phillips, Yuma, Kit Carson, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Prowers, Bent, Baca, Las Animas, Otero, Crowley, Pueblo, El Paso, and Lincoln). An additional 15 counties were also given contiguous or secondary designations. While many of these contiguous counties are on the eastern plains, five counties are on the western slope along the Utah border.

 Precipitation across the state has been inconsistent since the start of the water year, October 1, 2013. All basins have seen at least one month with above average precipitation, however with the exception of the Yampa/ White, all have also seen at least one month of below average precipitation. Currently, water year to-date precipitation is 98% of average with the northern part of the state near average to above average (90-120%) and the Rio Grande, southwest basins and Arkansas ranging from 79-89%.

 The Climate Prediction Center seasonal drought outlook released January 16, 2014 and valid for January 16- April 30, 2014 illustrates persistent or intensifying drought across southeastern Colorado and the eastern plains along the Kansas and Nebraska border; and likely drought development in the Rio Grande and across the southern state line. Temperature forecasts for the same period show a probability for above average temperatures in Southern Colorado.

 ENSO conditions remain neutral, which offers less guidance for long range climate outlooks. However, the early season forecast was fairly accurate for January 1st snowpack. The statistical precipitation forecast for January- March 2014 shows dryness across much of the state, especially in the northern mountains.

 The April 1st long term snowpack forecast indicates near normal conditions for the northern and eastern basins, but below-normal for the San Juan Mountains. A switch to El Niño appears possible this spring which could result in improved odds for precipitation.

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