@ColoradoClimate: Weekly Climate, Water and #Drought Assessment of the Intermountain West

Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

Dry Conditions Persist — NRCS #Snowpack #Drought

Here’s the release from the NRCS (Brian Domonkos):

In the mountains of Colorado, January proved to yield the best precipitation so far this water year, but it can hardly be viewed as a reprieve from the tenacious pattern of dry weather. At 70 percent of average, January precipitation was only slightly better than October at 69 percent. Snowpack too saw minimal improvement across the state up from 54 percent of normal last month to now 59 percent of normal on the first of February. “Nearly one quarter of the almost 200 snow monitoring sites across our network recorded snowpack at the lowest or second lowest levels on record,” said Brian Domonkos, Colorado Snow Survey Supervisor, referring to the network of USDA Natural Resources Conservations Service SNOw TELemetry and Snow Course sites nestled in the mountains of Colorado. With nearly one third of the typical winter season remaining, a major shift in weather patterns will be needed to make significant improvements, particularly in Southern Colorado.

Highlighting the below normal conditions, SNOTEL sites within the Rio Grande basin indicate snowpack is the lowest in recent history at 31 percent of normal. Meanwhile the SNOTEL sites in the combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan River basins observe the lowest standing year-to- date precipitation at 29 percent of normal. Northern Colorado however is performing considerably better. On the high side, snowpack in the North Platte River basin is at 82 percent of normal and in the South Platte River basin, which is home to much of the Denver Metro area, snowpack is at 80 percent of normal and year-to-date precipitation is much closer to normal at 98 percent.

Areas of Colorado such as Wolf Creek Pass and Red Mountain Pass in the San Juan Mountains typically boast five to six feet of snow in early February, but currently report only two to three feet. Domonkos adds, “What’s more concerning is the considerable number of mid to lower elevation monitoring sites that have little to no snow.” Most of these sites are located in the southern half of the Colorado.

Reservoir storage across the state is at the highest January levels in many years, at 115 percent of normal and will provide some assistance to spring and summer runoff where snowpack is well below normal. While some streamflow forecasts in the South Platte and Upper Colorado River basins are projected to produce runoff within the range of normal, far more rivers and streams throughout the rest of Colorado are forecasted to provide below normal to well below normal runoff this spring. For more specific streamflow forecast values refer to the Colorado Water Supply Outlook Report.

For more detailed and the most up to date information about Colorado snowpack and supporting water supply related information, refer to the Colorado Snow Survey website at:
http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/co/snow/
Or contact Brian Domonkos – Brian.Domonkos@co.usda.gov – 720-544-2852

@NOAA: January brought largest #drought footprint in nearly 4 years to U.S

Click here to read the release from NOAA:

Warmth in the West contrasted with cold in the East

Depending on your location, January brought a warmer or colder start to the year. Data show that much-above-average temperatures in the West offset below-average conditions in the East and made for a slightly warmer-than-average January for the nation as a whole.

Perhaps the bigger news: The U.S. drought continued to expand and intensify to its largest area in nearly four years (May 2014). As of January 30, 38.4 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, up from 27.7 percent at the beginning of January.

US Drought Monitor January 30, 2018.

Here’s how last month fared in terms of the climate record:

Climate by the numbers
January 2018

During January, the average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 32.2 degrees F, 2.1 degrees above average, ranking among the warmest third in the 124-year record, according to scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

Most locations from the Rockies to the West Coast were warmer than average in January, where nine states had monthly temperatures that ranked among the 10 warmest on record and more than 2,000 daily warm temperature records were broken or tied. Below-average temperatures stretched from the Southern Plains to the East Coast. Several significant cold waves impacted the eastern half of the nation with more than 4,000 daily cold temperature records broken or tied.

The precipitation total for the month was 1.81 inches, 0.50 of an inch below average, making it the 21st driest January on record. Below-average precipitation was observed across large areas of the country, including parts of the Southwest, Southern Plains, Northern Plains, Midwest, Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. Above-average precipitation was observed across parts of the Northwest, Central Plains and Northeast.

Other notable climate events for the month

  • Snowfall impacted the South, spared the West: During January, numerous snow storms impacted the eastern U.S. The Savannah, Georgia, airport received 1.2 inches of snow on January 4, the most since 1989 (See NASA’s satellite image above of Savannah area). Conversely, mountain locations in the Southern Cascades, Southern Rockies and Sierra Nevada Mountains had snowpack totals that were less than 25 percent of average.
  • Alaska experienced the warmest January temperature on record: On January 14, the temperature at a NOAA tide gauge at Ketchikan reached 67 degrees F, the highest January daily temperature ever measured in Alaska, besting the previous record of 62 degrees set in January 2014.
  • Pacific Islands were record-dry: Drought conditions spread and intensified into the U.S. Pacific Islands during January. Honolulu received 0.06 inches of rain, only three percent of normal, marking the third driest January on record. Guam record only 0.94 inches of rain, making it the driest January since records began in 1957.
  • @NOAA: Assessing the U.S. #Climate in January 2018

    Click here to read the release from NOAA:

    During January, the average contiguous U.S. temperature was 32.2°F, 2.1°F above the 20th century average. This ranked among the warmest third of the 124-year period of record. Much-above-average temperatures in the West offset below-average conditions in the East. The January precipitation total was 1.81 inches, 0.50 inch below the 20th century average. This tied the 21st driest January on record. Drought intensified and expanded across parts of the West, Southern Plains and Southeast.

    This monthly summary from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, business, academia and the public to support informed decision-making.

    January Temperature

  • Most locations from the Rockies to the West Coast were warmer than average, where nine states had monthly temperatures that ranked among the 10 warmest on record. While no state was record warm during January, more than 2,000 daily warm temperature records were broken or tied across the region.
  • Below-average temperatures stretched from the Southern Plains to the East Coast. Several significant cold waves impacted the eastern half of the nation during January with more than 4,000 daily cold temperature records broken or tied across the East. No state had a record cold monthly temperature.
  • The Alaska January temperature was 6.8°F, 4.6°F above the long-term average. This ranked in the warmest third of the 94-year period of record for the state. The first half of January was mild across Alaska with a cold end to the month. On January 14, the temperature at a NOAA tide gauge at Ketchikan reached 67°F, the highest January daily temperature ever measured in Alaska. The previous record was 62°F in January 2014.
  • January Precipitation

  • During January, below-average precipitation was observed across large areas of the country, including parts of the Southwest, Southern Plains, Northern Plains, Midwest, Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. Alabama had its ninth driest January and New Mexico tied its 10th driest. Above-average precipitation was observed across parts of the Northwest, Central Plains and Northeast.
  • In January, numerous snow storms impacted the eastern U.S., bringing snow and ice to locations across the South that hadn’t experienced snow in many years. On January 4, the Savannah, Georgia, airport received 1.2 inches of snow, the most since 1989. Conversely, snow generally missed large parts of the West. Mountain locations in the Southern Cascades, Southern Rockies and Sierra Nevada Mountains had snowpack totals that were less than 25 percent of average. The lack of snow in the West could result in below-average spring runoff causing water resource concerns. Tourism in the region was also impacted.
  • According to the January 30 U.S. Drought Monitor report, 38.4 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, up from 27.7 percent at the beginning of the month. This was the largest drought footprint since May 2014. Drought conditions expanded and intensified in parts of the West, Southern Plains and Southeast. Some drought improvement was observed in the Northern High Plains, Central Plains, Lower Mississippi Valley and coastal Southeast.
  • The NOAA National Weather Service issued a drought statement for Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and the Marshall Islands as drought intensified and spread during January 2018. With 0.94 inch of rain, the weather station at Guam observed the driest January in the 1957–2018 record.
  • See all January U.S. temperature and precipitation maps.

    Poudre River Forum recap

    Cache la Poudre River watershed via the NRCS

    From The Greeley Tribune (Trevor Reid);

    One way water experts make progress is through collaboration, a key theme in Friday’s presentations and discussions at the fifth annual Poudre River Forum at the Island Grove Events Center, 501 N. 14th Ave. But working together isn’t always easy…

    Even in the world of water experts, facts and evidence will often grab the attention of only the people whose biases are confirmed by the evidence. We learn in ways that don’t simply confirm our biases, Carcasson said, when we have genuine conversations with people we respect.

    Ruth Quade, coordinator for Greeley’s Water Conservation program, said she’s worked with others her entire career in water conservation. Yet Carcasson’s presentation still rang true to Quade…

    A panel of speakers highlighted some collaborations in the world of Colorado water: how state officials work with local water authorities to plan for water needs on a statewide scale, how the Fort Collins Water Utility worked with nearby water districts and more.

    Kerri Rollins, manager of the Larimer County Open Space program, garnered the most questions after her presentation on a deal between the Larimer County Department of Natural Resources and the city and county of Broomfield. Larimer officials purchased a farm and its water rights southwest of Berthoud in 2016. They hoped to keep the farm in production, while offsetting costs through a water-sharing agreement. In August 2017, the alternative transfer method was finalized.

    The agreement helps provide drought water to cities without the dichotomy that comes with “buy and dry” operations, where farms are permanently dried up. Rollins said the agreement was the first of its kind to share water from agricultural use to municipal use.

    Click here to view the Twitter hashtag #poudreriverforum from last Friday.