Wet start to water year gives way to dry reality — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

This week the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University recommended expanding the U.S. Drought Monitor drought designation now mostly limited to the far-southwest corner of the state to include generally all of the southern half of western Colorado. The recommendation, expected to be adopted by the Drought Monitor today, would include all of southern Mesa County, where only the far-southwest corner of the county previously had officially gone into drought. It also would take in Delta County and western Gunnison County, which already had moderate drought conditions in its eastern half.

Moderate drought is the mildest of four drought designations. Farther south into the San Juan Mountains, some areas were recommended for possible revision from moderate drought to severe drought, the next step up on the drought scale…

Becky Bolinger, assistant state climatologist at the center, said it appears that most areas of the West Slope will end up at near- to above-average for precipitation for the just-finished water year, meaning the dryout this summer doesn’t show up when looking back at the last 12 months as a whole, even if the recent trend is a concern.

Matthew Aleksa, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said the city ended the 2019 water year with 11.01 inches of precipitation. That ranks 16th-highest in data going back to 1893, and compares to a historical average of 8.74 inches and a record 15.01 inches during the 1929 water year…

Aleksa said the city’s wettest month during the last water year was last October, with 2.76 inches of moisture, followed by March with 2.29 inches. While the city was on a pace earlier this year to have a record water year, July produced only a measly 0.12 inches of rain. August did little better, with just 0.14 inches. And in September 0.26 inches of rain fell, much of that in one storm on Sept. 10. That compares to 1.19 inches in an average September…

Longer term, Bolinger said the federal Climate Prediction Center is showing a slightly above-average chance of precipitation over the next three months. But she said there appears to be a stronger chance of a continued warmer-than-average fall, which can be problematic from a snowpack standpoint.

“It makes it harder for the snow season to begin and when it does start snowing it makes it harder for the snow to stay,” she said.

She said it’s easier to get out of a precipitation deficit that is short-term, as is currently the case, but there’s not a lot of promise in the seasonal forecast of things changing.

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