#Drought news: Some D0 (Abnormally Dry) removed from Baca County, no changes to Four Corners

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:


A series of storm systems traversed across the lower 48 States this week, dropping precipitation on most section of the contiguous U.S. The exceptions to this included most of California, northern Montana, the central High Plains, and southern sections of Texas and Florida. In contrast, light to moderate precipitation fell on the Northwest, parts of the Southwest, most of the Plains, Midwest, Northeast, and Southeast. Widespread heavy precipitation (more than 2 inches) inundated coastal Washington and the Cascades, the southern Great Plains, lower Missouri, lower and middle Mississippi, and Tennessee Valleys, parts of the mid-Atlantic, and the Deep South (Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia). With dozens of stations measuring their wettest year on record in the East and Southeast (e.g. Wilmington, NC, 102.26 inches, old record 83.65 inches in 1877), it was not surprising that very little drought existed east of the Rockies. With subnormal weekly temperatures in the western half of the Nation and above-normal readings in the eastern half, the precipitation fell as snow in the southern Rockies, central and northern Plains, and upper Midwest. Snow also fell on most of the interior West, boosting WYTD basin average Snow Water Content (SWC) and precipitation closer to or above normal as of Jan. 1, according to the NRCS SNOTEL data…

High Plains

In the Dakotas and eastern Montana, light to moderate precipitation (0.2-1 inch) and subnormal temperatures created a snow cover of 4-20 inches which increased the short-term precipitation surplus while reducing longer-term deficiencies. As a result, the three small D0 areas in eastern Montana, southwestern North Dakota, and central South Dakota were either erased or shrunk (improvement), while some of the southern edges of the D0 and D1 areas in northern North Dakota were also trimmed. The D0 in southern Kansas was eliminated due to moderate precipitation there (see South). The slight D0 improvements in northwestern Wyoming and southeastern Colorado will be covered in the West narrative…


Storm systems affected the Northwest and Southwest this week. In the north, the system dropped beneficial precipitation along the Washington and Oregon coasts, on the Cascades, Bitter Roots, and northern Rockies. In the south, localized rain fell around the San Diego area, and precipitation spread into Arizona, New Mexico, parts of Utah, and southwestern Colorado. Much of California, Nevada, northwestern Arizona, northern Montana, southern Wyoming, and northeastern Colorado saw little or no precipitation, while temperatures generally averaged below-normal for most of the West.

The January 1, 2019 NRCS SNOTEL WYTD basin average precipitation and SWC [Snow water content] generally improved this week with the storm systems. Basin average SWC was close to normal (85-120% of normal) in most Western basins except (less than 85%) in the northern Sierras, western Oregon, south-central Idaho, southern Utah, central Arizona, and southwestern Colorado. Basin average precipitation was similar to SWC, with WYTD average precipitation close to normal in most basins (75-125%); however, southern Oregon, northern California, and south-central Idaho basins were less than 75% of normal. As a result, some slight 1-category improvements were made in western Washington and northwestern Oregon, northeastern Washington, northern Idaho, and northwestern Montana. Some D0 was trimmed from western Wyoming with the recent precipitation, and some slight improvement and smoothing of the D3 area of eastern Oregon was made. In contrast, a slight expansion of D0 into south-central Idaho was necessary due to the poor WYTD so far. In-between the northern and southern systems, no changes were made.

In southern California near San Diego, 0.5-2 inches of rain, coupled with an unseasonably wet fall (from Sergio moisture) and early winter, was enough to reduce long-term deficits and SPIs, thus D2 went to D1 where the rains fell this week. In southern and eastern Arizona where 0.5-2 inches of precipitation fell (snow in higher elevations), additional improvements were warranted due to the decent summer and fall monsoon rains and wet winter. In southern and eastern New Mexico, 0.5-3 inches of precipitation (snow at higher elevations) was reported, allowing for small reductions in D0 and D1 areas, while slightly improving D1-D4 in north-central New Mexico (near Albuquerque and Santa Fe) where 1-2 inches occurred. In southeastern Colorado, another round of 0.5-1 inch of precipitation has pushed most tools into the wet category, thus D0 was removed from Baca County. Although the core D3-D4 area in the Four Corners Region finally received overdue precipitation (0.5-2 inches), it had been so dry for the past 1-2 years that SPI values were still at D3-D4 at 6-months and beyond. With such large 12-month deficits (8-16 inches) in this semi-arid region, it will take more storms to finally pare down the long-term deficiencies and improve the SPI values. As a result, no changes were made in the Four Corners Region.


Heavy rains (3-8 inches, locally to 12 inches) soaked much of eastern Texas, eastern Oklahoma, western and southern Arkansas, and most of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee, with light to moderate totals (1-3 inches) falling on the central and northern Texas and the remainder of Oklahoma and Arkansas. Only western and southern Texas missed out on the plentiful precipitation. Accordingly, a general 1-category improvement was made to the D0 and D1 areas of Oklahoma, most of northern Texas, northwestern Arkansas, southern Kansas, and southwestern Missouri. In northern Texas, however, the small D1 area and the surrounding D0 was left since it was longer-term (>6-months), and the 0.25-1.5 inches of rain this week were not enough to alleviate the deficits. In extreme southern Texas, no rain increased 90-day deficits of 1-4 inches, thus the existing D0 area was expanded slightly northward, a new D0 area added to near Corpus Christi, and two new D1 areas were drawn where the biggest deficiencies were found in southern Texas…

Looking Ahead

During the next 5 days (January 3-7, 2019), a storm system will track across the South, bringing another round of moderate to heavy rain (1.5-4 inches) to the southern Great Plains, lower Mississippi Valley, and Deep South, with lighter totals in the mid-Atlantic and coastal New England. Unfortunately, it appears as though central and southern Florida will miss out on the rains. Pacific storm systems should drop decent precipitation along the West Coast and on the Cascades and Sierra Nevada. Light precipitation is also forecast for parts of Arizona, western New Mexico, southern Utah, and southwestern Colorado. Elsewhere, little or no precipitation will occur in the Great Basin, Plains, and Midwest. Temperatures should average above to much-above normal across the lower 48 States, with subnormal readings limited to the Southwest.

The CPC 6-10 day extended range outlook (January 8-12, 2019) showed enhanced chances for above-normal precipitation in the Northwest, Southwest, southern and central Plains, middle Mississippi and Ohio Valleys, Northeast, and southern Alaska. Subnormal precipitation was likely in the northern Plains, Southeast, and northern Alaska. Unseasonably mild weather is expected to continue throughout the lower 48 States with the exception of northern New England. Subnormal readings are favored in western Alaska, with near-normal temperatures in southeastern sections of the state.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending January 1, 2019.

And just for grins check out Grace Hood’s (NPR) story, “There’s a lot at stake in the weekly U.S. Drought Map,” about the U.S. Drought Monitor.

#Snowpack/#Drought news: Cortez moves above average for snowfall for the year

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map January 2, 2019 via the NRCS.

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

Ten days and several nights of snowstorms in the past 51 days has put Cortez above normal snowfall for the 2018-19 winter season.

But because of an abnormally dry 2017-18 winter, Southwest Colorado remains in the worst drought category of “exceptional,” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

“We’re off to a good start, but we are still playing catch-up,” said Jim Andrus, local weather observer for the National Weather Service. “It will take more generous months of precipitation to get us out of the exceptional drought.”

Since the beginning of the winter season on Nov. 1, Cortez has received 23.6 inches of snowfall, Andrus said. The average winter snowfall through January is 21.2 inches of snowfall, so Cortez is already at 111 percent of normal as of Jan. 2.

For all of last winter season, Cortez only recorded a total of 8 inches of snowfall, or 22 percent of average…

December 2018 was a very wet month, with total snow water equivalent measured at 1.8 inches, or 207 percent of the average .88 inches, Andrus said…

Precipitation for 2018 was 10.09 inches, or 80 percent of the average of 12.75 inches…

An El Niño weather pattern, indicated by increasing Equatorial Pacific temperatures, is developing and increasing the probability that winter storms will continue to track more south and hit the Four Corners area.

Recent storms have been dipping more southward, an indication the El Niño effect is kicking in, said Kris Sanders, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction…

In the Dolores Basin of the San Juan Mountains, snowpack is at 84 percent of average as of Jan. 2, according to Snotel devices that measure snowfall at different elevations. A dry November contributed to the below-average tally.

Last year at this time, the Dolores Basin snowpack was just 26 percent of average, and ended the winter season at 50 percent of average, according to Snotel reports. Last year was a drier La Niña weather pattern, indicated by cooling Equatorial Pacific temperatures, which increases probability that winter storms will take a more northerly route that miss the Four Corners area.

In the 2016-17 winter, the Dolores Basin snowpack was 124 percent of average for the season, a banner year that filled all the reservoirs and led to an 85-day whitewater boating release in the Dolores River below McPhee Dam…

The Four Corners and Southwest Colorado remain in the worst category of exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor’s latest posting, on Dec. 25. But the area of exceptional drought has been shrinking the past two months.

From The Pagosa Sun (Chris Mannara):

With consistent snowfall on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, local snowpack levels, as of Jan. 2, have shown an 8 percent increase since last week, according to data from the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS).

The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan River basins are currently 71 percent of median, up from 63 percent of median last week.

The Upper Rio Grande Basin has also seen an increase in levels, with a current total of 76 percent of median, compared to last week’s total of 67 percent of median.

Snowpack levels remain the same for the Gunnison River Basin, staying at 91 percent of median.

The Yampa and White River basins saw a drop from last week, going from 110 percent of median to 102 percent of median this week.

Another fall in snowpack levels is recorded at the Laramie and North Platte basins, with current levels sitting at 103 percent of median, compared to last week’s total of 108 percent of median.

For the Upper Colorado River Basin, snowpack levels are 104 percent of median, when last week they were 112 percent of median.

The South Platte River Basin saw a drop in its snowpack levels as well, going from 118 percent of median to 112 percent of median.

Rounding out the snowpack totals, the Arkansas River Basin sits at 114 percent of median, when last week that total was 110 percent of median.

We also see an increase in individual snowpack levels for the Wolf Creek summit. This week, the summit is 74 percent of the Jan. 2 median and 31 percent of the median peak. Last week, the Wolf Creek summit was 66 percent of peak and 25 percent of median peak.

However, locally, the National Weather Service (NWS) does not predict a chance of snow until Sunday, with a “slight chance” of snow showers that day.

For Wolf Creek Pass, the NWS indicates a 20 percent chance of snowfall on Saturday night and a 50 percent chance of snow on Sunday.

“I feel better, absolutely. But, we’re still not where we want to be,” NRCS District Conservationist Jerry Archuleta explained.