Mountain snowpack is sparse, with more brown ground showing than snowy white. Snotels situated at various elevations in the Dolores Basin are recording 18 percent of normal precipitation for this time of year, according to the National Resource Conservation Service. Last year at this time the basin was at 122 percent of normal.
“We are concerned about lack of snowpack, but it is still early in the season,” said Mike Preston, general manager for the Dolores Water Conservancy District that manages McPhee.
A silver lining is that McPhee has strong carryover storage of 137,000 acre-feet because of above average snowpack and runoff last winter.
Active storage of 270,000 acre-feet is needed to provide full water supply for farmers in 2018, “so we are already at half the supply needed,” Preston said.
Enough excess water for a 2018 boating release below McPhee Dam would require at least an average winter snowpack. While full farmer supply is anticipated even with a below average winter snowpack, a weak winter could create a lack of carryover at the end of the season, putting the 2019 season more at risk, Preston said.
The U.S. Drought Monitor shows that western Colorado and eastern Utah have moved into the moderate drought category. And the dry trend is expected to continue, according to forecasts.
A strong high-pressure ridge stretching across the western U.S. is preventing storms from reaching Colorado, said Megan Stackhouse, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:
This U.S. Drought Monitor week saw continued intensification and expansion of areas of drought across portions of the Southwest, Plains, lower Midwest, South, Southeast, and the Mid-Atlantic. For the conterminous U.S., this past autumn (September-November) was the 10th warmest on record according to NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). In terms of precipitation this fall, October and November were very dry in various regions with the South experiencing its 11th driest on record and the Southwest its 6th driest. Conversely, areas of the Midwest experienced above normal precipitation with Michigan having its 2nd wettest and Ohio its 5th wettest on record. Looking at changes in drought conditions nationwide during the past three months, the focal point of drought development has been centered over portions of the Desert Southwest, Deep South, and southern Plains while conditions have steadily improved across the Pacific Northwest…
On this week’s map, conditions deteriorated in eastern portions of the Dakotas as well as in eastern Nebraska and Kansas. In the Dakotas, areas of Abnormally Dry (D0) and Moderate Drought (D1) expanded as a result of unseasonably warm temperatures and below normal precipitation during the past 30-to-60 days. Moreover, the lack of snow cover and warm temperatures have raised concern in relation to the condition of the winter wheat crop. According to NOAA’s NCEI, North Dakota experienced its 4th driest October-November period on record. In Nebraska and Kansas, below normal precipitation and above normal temperatures during the past 30 days led to the introduction of new areas of Abnormally Dry (D0). During the past week, the region was generally dry and temperatures were well above average (5-to-15 degrees)…
During the past week, the region was dry with the exception of the Pacific Northwest where coastal areas of Oregon and Washington as well as the North Cascades received liquid accumulations ranging from 2-to-3.5 inches. Some lesser precipitation accumulations were observed in the northern Rockies where Water Year-to-Date precipitation accumulations are normal to slightly above normal. In southern California, four rapidly spreading large wildfires (exacerbated by strong Santa Ana winds) broke out this week near Los Angeles and further north in Ventura County. Elsewhere in the region, the Southwest continued to be unseasonably warm and dry leading to expansion of areas of Moderate Drought (D1) across northern Arizona. According to the National Weather Service in Flagstaff, several locations saw their Top-5 warmest autumns on record including: Flagstaff (4th warmest), Prescott (warmest), Payson (2nd warmest), and Winslow (2nd warmest). As a region, the Southwest experienced its 6th driest and 2nd warmest October-November period on record. Further north in Montana, conditions have been improving in the western portion of the state leading to slight reductions in areas of Abnormally Dry (D0) and Moderate Drought (D1). During the past week, average temperatures were near normal in the Far West and above normal (5-to-15 degrees) across the remainder of the West…
The NWS WPC 7-Day Quantitative Precipitation Forecast (QPF) calls for dry conditions across the western U.S., Plains, and lower Midwest while liquid precipitation accumulations of <1.5 inches are expected in the upper Midwest, New England, eastern portions of the Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and Gulf Coast. Some slightly higher accumulation (2-to-3 inches) are expected across the coastal plains of the Carolinas. The CPC 6-10-day outlook calls for a high probability of above-normal temperatures across the western half of the conterminous U.S. as well as in Alaska while below normal temperatures are expected in the eastern third of the U.S. In terms of precipitation, below normal precipitation is expected across most of the West, southern Plains, South, Southeast, lower Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic while there is a high probability of above normal precipitation for the upper Midwest and western portions of New England.
Throughout many parts of the U.S., a warm, dry November made autumn seem more like an extension of late summer, allowing people to get out and enjoy the mild weather.
Here’s how last month, the fall and the year to date fared in terms of the climate record:
Climate by the numbers
The November average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 45.1 degrees F, 3.4 degrees above average, making it the seventh warmest November on record, according to scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Record warmth spanned the Southwest with much-above-average temperatures stretching to the West Coast, Central Rockies and Southern Plains. The precipitation total for the month was 1.58 inches, 0.65 of an inch below average, making November the 19th driest on record.
The average autumn (September through November) U.S. temperature was 55.7 degrees F, 2.1 degrees above average, making it the 10th warmest autumn on record. Record warmth was observed in the Southwest and New England. Precipitation totaled 6.43 inches, 0.45 of an inch below average, putting this autumn among the driest third on record.
The year to date (YTD)
The year to date (January through November) for the contiguous U.S. was the third warmest on record, with an average temperature of 56.4 degrees F, 2.6 degrees above average. All of the Lower 48 states and Alaska observed above-average temperatures during this 11-month period. YTD precipitation totaled 30.60 inches, 3.01 inches above normal, ranking it the ninth wettest such period on record.
More notable climate events include:
Record heat in the Southwest: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah each had their warmest November on record. Arizona and New Mexico were also record-warm for autumn and the year to date.
Record-low rainfall in the South: November saw record low precipitation fall in parts of the Southwest and deep South. Mississippi ranked as third driest; Alabama and Arkansas tied for fourth, Oklahoma ranked fifth; and Louisiana ranked tenth. Arkansas saw its driest autumn on record; the state received 36.1 percent of its average rainfall this fall.
A warm, dry fall expanded drought in South: On November 28, 21.1 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, up nearly 9.2 percent compared with the end of October. Drought developed, expanded and intensified in the Southwest, Southern Plains, Lower Mississippi Valley and Southeast.
A wet year for parts of West and the Great Lakes: Many locations across the West and Great Lakes had much-above-average precipitation totals for the year to date. Michigan had its wettest January-November on record with 37.31 inches of precipitation, 8.19 inches above average.