#Drought news: Four Corners sees a return to D2 (Severe Drought), “The monsoons rains failed us” — Jim Andrus

North American Monsoon graphic via Hunter College.

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

Since Oct. 8, the U.S. Drought Monitor has shown the Four Corners at level D2, or severe drought, the third-worst category out of five levels.

The lack of moisture has been extraordinary, said Jim Andrus, a Cortez-based weather observer for the National Weather Service.

July, August and September were way below normal precipitation levels.

“The monsoon rains failed us. They never arrived because a consistent high-pressure ridge blocked them,” Andrus said…

July saw just .45 inches of rain, or 35% of the normal 1.28 inches. August had .57 inches, or 39% of the normal 1.48 inches. September came in at .15, just 10% of the normal average of 1.55 inches…

Poor soil moisture this fall is impacting the dryland winter wheat crop, said Gus Westerman, of the Dolores County agriculture extension office…

During average precipitation years, soil moisture is 6 inches to a foot down, ideal conditions for planting winter wheat so it will sprout before the dormant stage. This year, soil moisture level has basically zeroed out for dryland farmers, he said.

Not all is lost, though. When the snows come and the soil is replenished, the crop will still come up in the spring, but potentially with smaller yields. For farmers planting winter wheat now, a higher seed rate is recommended.

Thanks to a 140% of average snowpack for 2018-19 winter and a wet spring, Cortez is still at 122% of normal for total precipitation. On Oct. 1, there was 11.36 inches of precipitation for the year so far, and the normal average is 9.33 inches. Average precipitation for the year is 12.57 inches. Also, McPhee Reservoir had strong carryover, and managers report that even a 50% winter snowpack will refill it.

Southern Utah also is experiencing a severe dry spell. On Oct. 17, St. George, Utah, reported 122 days without measurable precipitation. That breaks the previous record of 121 days set in 1930, according to the National Weather Service.

In 2018, from April to December, the Four Corners was in exceptional drought, the highest level at D4, and the hardest-hit region in the nation.

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