#Drought news:

From The Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Charlie Wertheim):

Precipitation well below normal coupled with above-average temperatures have led to early snowmelt, according to a news release from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Streamflow forecasts predict between 72% and 79% of normal for the Colorado Basin, the release says. The forecast covers the period from June 1 through July 31, said Brian Domonkos, Colorado Snow survey supervisor…

As compared to last year, the Colorado Basin has just 15% of the snowpack it had on June 1, 2019…

“Soil moisture can’t be understated as a condition that will affect snowpack. We went into this year’s snowpack with pretty dry soils,” said Jim Pokrandt, director of community affairs for the Colorado River District.

Reservoir storage numbers are much better. The Colorado Basin was at 115% of normal on June 1, with no basins having higher percentages. That’s better than last year, when storage was at 90% on June 1, 2019. The state average for reservoir storage this June 1 was 100%.

“When it comes to water users, the information that talks about reservoir storage, that’s where we have an advantage. We’ll have good reservoir storage for agricultural and other water users to get through this year,” Pokrandt said…

“Not every irrigator has reservoir storage to call upon. Irrigators in Garfield County that depend on run of the river, they’re the ones that will feel the greater effect of the tapering off of snowpack and the acceleration of drought,” Pokrandt said.

A map in the release shows statewide precipitation at just 50% of normal, with the Colorado basin slightly better at 53% of average. The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins collectively are at the state’s lowest at 24% of average.

Less concerning is data for the water year, which Domonkos said starts Oct. 1. Precipitation statewide for those eight months is 82% of average, with the Colorado basin at 88%.

Precipitation for the first 10 days of June is 100% of normal, which Domonkos said “is still pretty good.”

[…]

Colorado Drought Monitor June 9, 2020.

Nevertheless, the state is suffering from drought.

“The water availability task force is activating the ag[riculture] portion of the state drought plan. It’s an indication that there is drought, and if you look at the U.S. drought monitor as of the 2nd of June a little bit less than 77% of the state is in some kind of drought,” Domonkos said…

“Predictions are we’re going to have warmer temperatures and below-average precipitation through the summer, but you never really know until we get into the monsoonal season and see what happens,” Pokrandt said.

North American Monsoon graphic via Hunter College.

From The Conejos County Citizen (Sylvia Lobato):

Critical fire weather conditions continue over the San Luis Valley. Avoid any activities that may spark a fire. The current Fire Danger rating is High. RGNF is under Stage 2 fire restrictions…

In addition to well below normal precipitation, the National Resource and Conservation Service reports the Colorado mountains have also had warmer than normal temperatures. This combination has led to snowmelt rates that are much faster than normally observed.

In Southern Colorado, where the past winter snowpack reached near normal peak values, this led to snow melting out of SNOTEL snowpack metering sites several weeks earlier than normal. The current snowpack level for the Rio Grande Basin is at 0.00 percent of normal. In northern basins where snowpack was above normal, snowmelt still occurred early but closer to a normal time than in Southern Colorado. This early snowmelt in combination with lower than normal precipitation both have contributed to declines in streamflow forecasts over the last two months.

The lowest streamflow forecasts in the state are in the Rio Grande basin where they average a meager 41 percent of normal. The Arkansas basin spans the gap of north to south with much higher forecasts in the headwaters compared to the much drier southern tributaries.

While the average of current streamflow forecasts in all major basins of Colorado are far well below normal volumes, there are still stark differences between the northern and southern basins. The highest forecast values in the state exist in the North Platte, South Platte and Colorado basins. The average of forecast values in these basins range from 72 to 79 percent of normal volumes. The Gunnison and combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins both have average forecast values of 55 percent of normal.

West Drought Monitor June 9, 2020.

From Aspen Public Radio (Alex Hager):

Some portions of Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield Counties are experiencing moderate drought because of hotter temperatures and below average precipitation in April and May.

The U.S. Drought Monitor upgraded Aspen and some parts of Pitkin County from “abnormally dry” to “moderate drought,” the second of five levels of drought severity.

In addition to abnormal temperature and precipitation conditions, the Aspen area entered the spring with below-average soil moisture. Drier soils reduce the amount of snowmelt that reaches streams.

“I don’t think it’s anything to be alarmed at,” said Steve Hunter, utilities resource manager for the City of Aspen. “But it’s something we’re watching very closely, due to the fact that we had some of the hottest and driest April and May on record in the south, and we’re not far from that where we sit here in Aspen.”

Above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation also took a toll on the area’s snowpack. While the past winter left an average snowpack in the Roaring Fork Watershed, the heat and dryness have caused it to melt away quicker than usual, which could lead to limited water resources over the summer…

The northern part of the state is experiencing normal water conditions, but much of southern Colorado is undergoing either “severe” or “extreme” levels of drought. Gunnison County, directly to the south of Pitkin, is mostly in “severe” condition.

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