Click here to read the update (Megan Holcomb/Tracy Kosloff):
As predicted in last month’s report, snowpack has rapidly declined. Soils are exceptionally dry throughout the southern half of the state and much of the eastern plains. Thus, despite average mountain snowpack, drought conditions have quickly intensified – particularly in the San Luis Valley, Arkansas Valley, and parts of the western slope. Outlooks show the eastern plains as hot and dry for the next two weeks. May’s Water Availability Task Force (WATF) meeting confirmed some producers are anticipating significant decreases in winter wheat production and seeing stressed and delayed rangeland grasses. Succinct, local impact reports from CoCoRaHS volunteers can be found on the CO Climate Center website. Drought Plan activation is being considered for the agriculture sector in select counties by the WATF and Drought Task Force members.
The latest U.S. Drought Monitor, released May 28, shows two cells of deepening drought conditions across the San Juans and Sangre de Cristos as well as southeastern Colorado centered around Lamar. D3 (extreme) conditions first emerged on the Drought Monitor on May 5, covering 11% of the state. As of May 26, D3 has increased to 17.5% coverage. D0 (abnormally dry) conditions cover 11.5% of the state; D1 (moderate) covers 21%; D2 (severe) covers 26%; and D3 (extreme) drought encompases 17.5% of the state. The north border remains drought free (23%). The 90-day Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) (from Feb. 24 to May 24) shows below average moisture for nearly all of Colorado aside from the Boulder-Longmont region. ENSO forecasts continue to hold in neutral conditions, with a 65% chance of neutral conditions holding through the summer. By autumn, La Niña starts to become a possibility. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center three month outlook maps show very high confidence for above average temperatures June through August for the entirety of the state and equal chances of below, above, or average precipitation outlooks. Reservoir storage remains just above average for most major basins except the southwest reservoirs (95% avg), the Upper Rio Grande (78%), and Arkansas (91%). Statewide, reservoirs are at 104% of average and 61% capacity. Municipal water providers described above average demands in April and May, indicating early irrigation demands, but most reported average reservoir levels.