#Drought news: #Colorado, recent precipitation, low evaporative demand in recent weeks, improving long-term moisture conditions, and hydrologic rebound from snowmelt prompted reduction of D0 in the remaining areas of the state

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor.

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

This Week’s Drought Summary

A series of Pacific upper-level weather systems, and their associated surface lows and fronts, moved across the contiguous U.S. (CONUS) during this U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) week. These systems dropped half an inch or more of precipitation across much of the West, Plains, and Midwest, as well as parts of the Northeast. Heavy rains of 2 to 4 inches, or more, fell across parts of California, especially the upslope regions. The systems triggered severe weather in the Plains, with training thunderstorms dropping flooding rains. Two inches or more of precipitation was measured from northern Texas to Illinois, parts of the northern Plains, eastern Texas to Louisiana, and Upper Mississippi Valley to western Great Lakes. Parts of Oklahoma to southeast Kansas saw more than 5 inches of rain. Precipitation was sparse in southern Arizona and New Mexico, and across most of the Southeast where high pressure dominated, with less than a tenth of an inch observed. Most of the precipitation fell on areas that were drought-free. Drought and abnormal dryness contracted in parts of the Southwest, but expanded in areas that received below-normal precipitation this week, had continued and prolonged precipitation deficits, or were experiencing drought impacts. These included parts of southern Texas, the Pacific Northwest, the northern Plains, the Southeast, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the southern parts of the Alaskan panhandle. With the elimination of D2 from New Mexico, this week is the first time in the history of the USDM that the CONUS has been free of Severe to Exceptional Drought. However, it also marks the first time that Extreme Drought (D3) has been analyzed for Alaska…

High Plains

Half an inch to over 2 inches of precipitation fell across much of the High Plains region this week. But there were some strips which received 0.25 inch or less, including parts of eastern Nebraska, northern North Dakota, southwestern Wyoming, and southeastern Colorado. D0 expanded in the northern counties of North Dakota. Soil moisture in northwest North Dakota was dry and planting has been slow, with the dry soils expected to delay planting further and delay germination; fire danger has also been high recently. Grasses in western North Dakota were showing stress. In central North Dakota, grass was brown and not growing even though the wetlands were filled with water and dugouts were at normal levels. In Colorado, on the other hand, recent precipitation, low evaporative demand in recent weeks, improving long-term moisture conditions, and hydrologic rebound from snowmelt prompted reduction of D0 in the remaining areas of the state…


It was a cooler- and wetter-than-normal week across most of the West. Precipitation amounts ranged from less than a tenth of an inch from inland southern California to southern New Mexico, and less than half an inch in the lee areas of the coastal, Sierra, and Great Basin ranges, to over 2 inches in California and parts of the Pacific Northwest. The areas receiving less than a tenth of an inch of precipitation were drier than normal, as were northwest Washington and parts of northern Idaho and northwest Montana. The precipitation that has occurred during this past wet season contracted drought across the West over the past several months, with just a few areas remaining. D0-D1 contracted in New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah, and the D2 in northwest New Mexico was eliminated. D0 contracted in southeast Oregon. But D0 expanded in southwest New Mexico and D1 expanded in northwest Oregon and northwest Washington. May 19th USDA reports indicated 50% of New Mexico was still experiencing short to very short topsoil moisture conditions, and 50% of California was still short of topsoil moisture. In southern California, where D0 remained, 5 of the reservoirs in San Diego County were at or below 50% of capacity. In spite of the precipitation this week, much of western Washington and northwest Oregon were drier than normal for the last 14 to 90 days, and even out to the last 12 months. Streamflow levels were low, with the streamflow on the Wilson River near Tillamook, Oregon near record low levels for this time of year…


Much of Oklahoma and parts of Texas to the Lower Mississippi Valley were wetter than normal this week, but southern and eastern portions of the region were drier than normal. Parts of north central Tennessee and western and southern Texas have been drier than normal for the last 60 to 90 days, but otherwise wet conditions dominate the region. Spots of D0 were added to western Texas along the Rio Grande River, southern Texas, and Mississippi and Tennessee where they connect to Alabama…

Looking Ahead

Next week (May 23-28) will largely see a repeat of this week’s weather pattern. A couple upper-level Pacific weather systems will move across the West, then roar out of the Southwest, across the Plains, to the Great Lakes, dropping several inches of rain across parts of the southern to central Plains and Midwest. Half an inch to locally 2 inches of precipitation are expected across much of the West, except little to no precipitation is forecast for southern portions of the Southwest and parts of the Pacific Northwest. The weather systems will keep western temperatures cooler than normal, while the North Atlantic High will keep temperatures warmer than normal across the southeastern third of the CONUS. Little to no precipitation is predicted for much of the southern Plains to Southeast, although the western Carolinas might see up to an inch. Over an inch of precipitation is expected for northern portions of the Northeast, while southern portions should receive half an inch or less. For May 29-June 5, more of the same. Odds favor cooler-than-normal temperatures from the Southwest to Great Lakes and southern coastal Alaska, while warmer-than-normal temperatures are expected for the Southern Plains to Mid-Atlantic region, the West Coast to northern Rockies, and much of Alaska. Odds favor below-normal precipitation for the Gulf of Mexico and Southeast coastal states, Washington and Oregon in the Pacific Northwest, parts of New Mexico, the North Dakota and Minnesota D0 areas, and southern Alaska panhandle. Odds favor wetter-than-normal conditions for the rest of Alaska, the rest of the West, and most of the Great Plains to Northeast.

From The Colorado Sun (Jesse Paul):

The drought outlook in Colorado is the best it has been in at least 19 years, with the smallest area of the state being listed under some kind of dry status since June 5, 2001.

That’s according to nearly two decades of U.S. Drought Monitor data, which has been recorded since 2000.

“This is the lowest amount (of dryness) we’ve ever had since the Drought Monitor was put in place,” said Taryn Finnessey, a senior climate change specialist with Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources, who first pointed out the milestone. “I recognize there were certainly periods of time in the last 19 years where there have been areas of no drought. But in terms of the whole state, this is the least dry we have ever been.”

The U.S. Drought Monitor released a report Thursday showing that just roughly 8 square miles in Colorado are under abnormal dryness, or just 0.01% of the state. That little sliver could be just from a map-drawing error, according to Richard Heim, who drew the map and works for the National Centers for Environmental Information.

It’s all part of a dramatic turnaround since last summer when, at this same point, about 80% of the state was under some kind of dry status…

“This has been an incredible turnaround in, really, just six months,” Finnessey said, adding that she could not have expected such a swing during last year’s hot and dry summer…

With the state’s recent stretch of damp and wet weather, the drought outlook moving forward continues to appear bright.

“I think that we’re sitting pretty for a little while,” Finnessey said…

“I think we really have seen the best case scenario play out,” she added. “I will qualify that by saying we also need to dry out a little bit so producers can get things planted and we have a really well behaved runoff and don’t have flooding issue in burn scars.”

One week change map from the US Drought Monitor through May 21, 2019.

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