Last week, widespread precipitation fell across central New Mexico and Arizona and throughout much of Wyoming, while leaving the central portion of the Intermountain West dry in Utah and Colorado. Following a record-cold October for much of the IMW region, last week larger portions saw near to slightly above average temperatures.
While the cold October was helpful in delaying exacerbating drought severity, continued dryness across the Four Corners region and extending north into Utah and Colorado, continues to be a growing concern. With a dry summer and poor performing monsoon, extremely dry conditions extend back to 120 days, with widespread 120-day SPIs below -2. For lower elevations that don’t benefit as much from the stellar spring snows and runoff, there is more of an immediate concern. Hydrologically, the concern isn’t as large right now either, for the reservoirs are still in good condition. Streamflows ended at base flow a little lower than normal. Soils show the very poor conditions that will again come into play during the spring thaw and meltoff. For the higher elevations, impacts right now aren’t significant, and the rest of the snow season offers plenty of time for recovery.
There is good news for the northern and central Colorado mountains, especially with many of the ski resort areas. Well-timed snow events coupled with very cold conditions resulted in strong and early openings for the season. For much of this region, the start of the new water year is a bit of a reset. The memory of dry conditions in the summer quickly fade, with impacts and ground conditions heavily weighted toward the short-term, so the area is looking good as of now.