#Drought news: Conditions are rapidly deteriorating through most of the High Plains Region

Click on a thumbnail graphic below to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor.

Click here to go the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

This Week’s Drought Summary

Significant rainfall missed most areas of dryness and drought across the contiguous 48 states, with improvements limited to part of the northern Intermountain West, central Kansas, and a few isolated spots in both Oregon and upstate New York. Elsewhere, dry conditions persisted or intensified. In particular, abnormally hot weather, low humidity, and gusty winds have led to rapidly-intensifying dryness across the Plains States. Extreme drought expanded in northern New Mexico, part of central and western Oklahoma, eastern Colorado, and western Kansas while broad areas of abnormal dryness and some moderate drought were introduced farther north…

High Plains

Conditions are rapidly deteriorating through most of the High Plains Region. Moderate to isolated heavy rainfall was observed in a few small areas in central Kansas, northeastern Nebraska, and adjacent South Dakota, but precipitation was scant and short-lived elsewhere. Improvements were introduced in central Kansas, but this is very much the exception. Although rainfall deficits only date back a few weeks to a few months, other factors are making things worse, specifically abnormal heat, low humidity, and gusty winds. High temperatures approached triple-digits as far north as South Dakota. All these factors led to broad areas of deterioration in eastern Colorado, southern Kansas, Wyoming, the Dakotas, and adjacent parts of Nebraska. Notably, extreme drought (D3) expanded to cover a large part of southern and eastern Colorado, and adjacent parts of Kansas…


Some northern parts of the region experienced another wet week while areas west and north of the Four Corners saw little or no rain. Exacerbating the dryness, temperatures averaged at least a couple degrees above normal in most dry areas, with weekly anomalies approaching +10 degrees F from the Great Basin northward into western Montana. Between 1.5 and 3.5 inches of rain fell on northeastern Oregon and adjacent Idaho, and from the Oregon and Washington Cascades westward to the Pacific Coast. The highest elevations in the Cascades and coastal ranges recorded 4 to 7 inches in a few spots. Elsewhere, only patchy light showers were noted in the rest of the Northwest and in parts of New Mexico, and other areas reported little or none. Recent rains have been sufficient to improve or remove dryness from western Idaho southward through the northern Great Basin, and in parts of western Oregon. In sharp contrast, conditions deteriorated along the southern tier of Montana and through parts of the Intermountain West, where precipitation has been much less abundant the past few weeks. Severe drought (D2) was introduced in southwest Montana…


Drought continues to rapidly develop and intensify across most of Texas and Oklahoma, with patchy dryness beginning to develop farther east in western Tennessee and adjacent Mississippi. Central parts of the region, soaked by heavy rain associated with Tropical Storm Cristobal last week, remained free of moisture deficits. Only isolated parts of Tennessee saw any significant precipitation this week. Western Texas and eastern New Mexico received less than 0.5 inch the past couple of months, and most of this area recorded under an inch for the past 90 days. Farther east in central Oklahoma, higher normals allowed rainfall deficits of 2.5 to 4.5 inches accumulate over the past few weeks. As a result, moderate to severe drought expanded in many areas from central Oklahoma to the Texas/New Mexico border as far south as the Big Bend. Precipitation shortfalls are less acute and of shorter duration on the east side of the South Region, but conditions deteriorated enough to introduce D0 there…

Looking Ahead

June 18-22 should be a fairly wet week (upwards of 0.5 inch rain) from the south-central Plains northward through Iowa and Minnesota, with the east-central Great Plains and the western Red River Valley of the South expecting over two inches. Farther east, a non-tropical storm is forecast to bring moderate to heavy rain to the Middle Atlantic States. Generally, areas from northern North Carolina through southern Pennsylvania should receive 0.5 to locally 2.0 inches of rain. The northern and western Great Lakes region should anticipate moderate amounts topping out under 1.5 inches. Looking from the Rockies westward, moderate to locally heavy (high-elevation) precipitation is anticipated in central and western Montana, and moderate totals are expected in the northern Great Basin and adjacent areas. Meanwhile, subnormal temperatures are forecast from the central Rockies and Plains northward to the Canadian border, with daily highs forecast to average around 6 degrees F below normal there. In contrast, higher than normal temperatures are expected in parts of Nevada and California, as well as the Northeast. Readings should be 6 to 12 degrees F above normal in upstate New York and New England.

The CPC 6-10 day outlook (June 23-27) shows a tilt of the odds toward above-normal precipitation from the central and southern Plains eastward to the Atlantic Coast, save Florida. Areas in and around the northern Great Basin should also expect above-normal precipitation. In contrast, subnormal totals are favored in the Big Bend, the central and southern Rockies, and the northern tier of states from the Great Plains to the West Coast. Increased chances of above normal temperatures cover the Eastern Seaboard, and also the Rockies westward to the Pacific Coast. Meanwhile, odds favor subnormal temperatures from the Plains to the Appalachians.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending June 16, 2020.

#Monsoon forecast isn’t rosy, but it’s better than last year — The Farmington Daily Times

North American Monsoon graphic via Hunter College.

From The Farmington Daily Times (Mike Easterling):

  • This year’s outlook calls for near-average to slightly below-average precipitation for the Southwest.
  • It also calls for slightly above-average to above-average temperatures for the region.
  • San Juan County received only 0.13 inches of precipitation during June, July and August of 2019.
  • “It is definitely a better outlook than last year,” meteorologist Andrew Church of the National Weather Service in Albuquerque said shortly after posting the “2020 Monsoon Outlook for Central and Northern New Mexico” on the agency’s website on the afternoon of June 15. “It was one of the hottest and driest on record.”

    This year’s outlook calls for near-average to slightly below-average precipitation for the Southwest and slightly above-average to above-average temperatures for the region. That means conditions are not set up for a wet, cool summer…

    Last summer’s hot-and-dry weather in the Southwest was a function of the so-called “Four Corners High” — a high-pressure system that typically sets up over the region — failing to slide east and allowing a deep southerly flow to push into New Mexico…

    Church doesn’t see the same thing happening this year, even though summer monsoon seasons in the American Southwest, with a few exceptions, have been increasingly disappointing for the last 15 years or so. In fact, he said he and his colleagues have taken to calling those dud years “nonsoons.”

    The long-term trend pushing that change, he said, largely can be attributed to global warming. Church said the rapid warming of the Earth’s poles has impacted the jet stream, making it less predictable and more volatile. He described the jet stream as the steering mechanism for the subtropical moisture that feeds monsoon storms, so changes in its behavior will impact where that moisture goes.

    #Drought news: “I wish I had better news” — Dave DuBois #NewMexico

    From The New Mexico Political Report (Kendra Chamberlain):

    “I wish I had better news,” said Dave DuBois, New Mexico’s State Climatologist and director of the NM Climate Center at the New Mexico State University, during a weather outlook webinar hosted by the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) held in May. DuBois was looking at a three-month weather outlook map forecasting rain during New Mexico’s summer months and monsoon season.

    “I really didn’t want to see this,” he said, swirling his mouse over a patch of brown in the Four Corners area. “Not a lot of good news there. This is showing some probability for below-average precipitation for northwest New Mexico.”

    Experts agree 2020 is shaping up to be a challenging year for water in New Mexico. Despite a near-normal snowpack last winter, dry soil conditions and a very warm spring — with hardly any precipitation since January — has thrust much of the state into drought conditions, again…

    The northern portion of the state, along the Colorado border, is experiencing the worst of the drought. The Four Corners area in particular has been an epicenter of drought conditions for a few years now.

    The latest modeling, visualized in the brown splotches on the weather outlook map, indicates the area may not see much water this summer, either.

    “This is where we’re having problems,” DuBois said. “The further you get north, the drier it is.”

    The mountains of New Mexico accumulated an almost normal amount of snow during the 2019-2020 “water year,” the time of year when the area receives the bulk of its precipitation. For New Mexico, the water year roughly runs from the first snows in October to a peak in April, when snowpack is at its highest, though the peaks in snowpack vary across elevation and latitude.

    “We use that as our starting point for the start of the cold season, when we start to build our hydrologic storage areas,” DuBois said. “Usually, the peak snow is right around the beginning of April.”

    Under normal conditions, the peak snowpack in April begins to melt in the early summer, leading to the runoff season, as the mountain streams carry the melted snowpack down from the higher elevations to the rivers.

    In 2019, the state saw several big snow storms in the earlier part of the water year, dumping precipitation onto the mountain tops throughout the month of November. But the spring snowstorms, which would typically add to the snowpack to April, never materialized in many of the state’s water basins. Instead, the area saw unusually warm temperatures, which in turn led to an earlier runoff…

    “They’ve had a really tough two years. The center of drought in the whole country was the Four Corners area,” DuBois said. “They’ve gone through a lot, and we’ve seen the impacts on native vegetation. It’s pretty bad. In some of those areas, they still haven’t really recovered. We’re seeing a longer term dry in the north, but indicators that the drought is pushing south.”

    West Drought Monitor June 2, 2020.

    South Platte River flood remembered 55 years later — 9News.com

    From 9News.com (Nelson Garcia):

    As people head out on the waters of Chatfield Reservoir, many probably don’t realize the lake is there now because of what happened 55 years ago on June 16.

    “It was a 20-foot wall of water when it hit Littleton,” Jenny Hankinson said.

    She is Curator of Collections at the Littleton Museum and helped put together an exhibit about the 1965 South Platte River Flood…

    On June 14, 1965, Hankinson said about 14 inches of rain fell upstream near Castle Rock and Deckers adding too much precipitation to Plum Creek and the South Platte River forcing water over the banks collecting debris along the way…

    Hankinson said 13 bridges were washed out along with 2,500 homes causing more than $500 million in damage at the time across Colorado. In 2020 dollars, that is the equivalent of more than $4.1 billion…

    Due to the flood, Hankinson said development along the river is now smarter with fewer buildings, more parks and open land that can absorb the water. But, the biggest protection is the dam at Chatfield Reservoir built eight years after the flood.

    Trains at 14th St and South Platte River June 19, 1965. Photo via Westword.com

    @COParksWildlife: Virtual Partners in the Outdoors Awards Ceremony – 2020

    From email from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Travis Duncan):

    At the 2020 virtual Partners in the Outdoors Conference [June 17, 2020], Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) announced the winners of its annual Partner of the Year Awards.

    CPW’s Partner of the Year Awards
    CPW presents these awards to those who display outstanding efforts in support of Colorado’s Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP), and CPW’s Strategic Plan.

    In the introduction to the virtual awards ceremony, CPW Director Dan Prenzlow said, “The Partner of the Year Awards are presented to those who have displayed outstanding efforts in support of Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s mission, our Strategic Plan, our State Wildlife Action Plan, and the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. Each of the organizations honored play an integral role in advancing and balancing outdoor recreation and conservation in Colorado.”

    Statewide Partner of the Year:
    Children & Nature Network, Natural Leaders Initiative

    The Children and Nature Network’s (C&NN) Natural Leaders Initiative has been instrumental in CPW’s ability to build the leadership capacity and engagement of young diverse leaders in Colorado. Through a multi-year partnership, C&NN has served as a strategic partner regarding youth engagement at our Partners in the Outdoors Conference. They have provided professional development and leadership to allow cohorts of youth to connect with professionals in the outdoor and natural resource management industry in meaningful ways.

    Through this partnership, we are: building trust, relationships and networks while breaking down identified barriers; utilizing and supporting existing programs including the Colorado Legacy Camp and GOCO’s Generation Wild coalitions; and helping to recruit and retain an outdoor recreation workforce that is diverse and representative of Colorado’s demographics.

    The Children and Nature Network also partner closely with Great Outdoors Colorado through the support of the Generation Wild Coalitions. C&NN has facilitated three cohorts of Colorado Legacy Camp which is C&NN’s signature leadership training for diverse, emerging leaders between the ages of 18 and 26 years old. Participants in this multi-day intensive training leave camp with the skills and support they need to develop community-driven action plans to increase nature access for children, families and communities. The curriculum is built upon four foundational pillars: the power of personal narrative, leadership development, community organizing, and action planning.

    We have expanded our partnership in 2020 with C&NN and they are working with us to build relationships with youth-serving organizations to increase the intergenerational connection and knowledge through the virtual conference and beyond. They will conduct a stakeholder scan and create an inventory of youth serving organizations, facilitate workshops to connect CPW with Colorado stakeholders and partners in engaging diverse youth leaders and advancing their leadership efforts. Additionally, C&NN is working to build the capacity of CPW as a model of equitable young professional development and retention among state/federal land management agencies.

    Statewide Collaboration Award:
    Fishers Peak Property: A partnership between Great Outdoors Colorado, The Nature Conservancy, Trust for Public Land, City of Trinidad and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

    As you cross into Colorado from New Mexico on I-25, one of the first things you see is Fishers Peak. This iconic mountain is located on a 30-square-mile property just outside the City of Trinidad and is the symbol of the community. Thanks to a unique partnership among Great Outdoors Colorado, The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land, the City of Trinidad and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, this property will become Colorado’s next state park, thus providing public access while protecting it for future generations.

    This partnership supports almost all of CPW’s Strategic Plan goals. A key aspect of this project is to plan for both ecological and recreational goals from the beginning to ensure recreation and conservation priorities are balanced. This project supports conserving wildlife habitat while providing excellent outdoor recreation opportunities to connect people to the Colorado outdoors. This partnership is also helping the agency build awareness and trust with the public because it demonstrates our commitments from the Future Generations Act. Finally, this project will ensure public access to the outdoors while achieving land conservation priorities in southern Colorado.

    A main reason for the partnership’s success is the collaboration of a local municipality, two national conservation nonprofits, and two state entities. The Trust for Public Land and The Nature Conservancy would not have pursued the acquisition without the demand and support from the City of Trinidad and the local community to preserve the property’s natural values and open it to the public. Nor would they have been able to risk acquiring and financing over $20 million of the purchase or committing to holding it indefinitely without GOCO and CPW’s financial support, which came largely from hunting and angling dollars. If you remove any one of the project partners, then the project simply would not have happened, and Fishers Peak would have been slated for private development.

    Northwest Region Partner of the Year:
    Summit County Safe Passages

    Summit County Safe Passages (SCSP) is a diverse, community-based collaboration working toward a vision of balancing wildlife needs with a growing human population that lives, travels and recreates in Summit County. The team is working towards creating safe passage for both wildlife and people along our roadways by identifying key movement corridors for wildlife and prioritizing safety for motorists. The community support behind this partnership reflects a shared passion to conserve our wildlife and create safer highways for all.

    SCSP protects wildlife corridors to ensure sustainable populations. Development of wildlife crossing structures improves habitat connectivity, enhances ecosystems and reduces wildlife-vehicle mortality. SCSC supports sustainable access/opportunity for outdoor recreation by improving safety for motorists through development of wildlife highway crossing systems, reduction of wildlife-vehicle collisions, as well as community outreach/public engagement. SCSP promotes stewardship by participating in community events and school programs to educate on the importance of habitat connectivity for wildlife. SCSP promotes conservation by enhancing landscape-scale connectivity across multiple types of land ownership, protection of migration corridors, and reduction of wildlife-vehicle collisions.

    Southeast Region Partner of the Year:
    Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance

    Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance (PPORA) is a collaborative of businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies who recognize the value of our region’s incredible natural and recreational resources to our community, both as an economic driver and for our health and well-being. PPORA is led by a Board and Advisory Council consisting of outdoor industry and community leaders. Their goal is to shape the future of outdoor recreation in the Pikes Peak Region so that the region is known as THE place for outdoor recreation.

    The PPORA partnerships allow CPW to create unity by being in collaboration with local outdoor recreation businesses and nonprofits, and also leverages the agencies’ ability to reach diverse and new audiences.

    PPORA has gathered over 50 nonprofits, local businesses and government agencies to support their mission. Bringing partners together at events such as the State of the Outdoors, Colorado Springs Get Outdoors Day and Pikes Peak Outdoor Leadership Summits, PPORA’s supporters collaborate and learn about current outdoor issues and challenges. As a convener of diverse partners, PPORA builds partnerships that help everyone involved make progress on difficult issues. PPORA believes that together we are stronger. They brought partners together for five years at the Colorado Springs Get Outdoors Day to provide free outdoor activities for over 6,000 participants and hosted Gubernatorial candidates to share their thoughts on outdoor issues in 2018.

    Northeast Region Partner of the Year:
    Big Thompson Watershed Coalition

    Since the floods of 2013, the Big Thompson Watershed Coalition is a valuable partner to CPW in stream restoration and riparian health, but has been a true community leader bringing together essential stakeholders to care for and improve the natural resources of the watershed. These stakeholders include municipal water suppliers, agricultural producers, habitat advocates, and government agencies who have successfully worked together to plan and fund several river projects.

    The Big Thompson Watershed Coalition assists CPW in achieving the goals of our strategic plan by helping conserve wildlife and habitat to contribute to healthy ecosystems, they provide opportunities for CPW to increase awareness and trust for the organization, and they connect people with the outdoors. The BTWC has restored or improved over 10 miles of river. Currently, the BTWC is facilitating a multi-stakeholder group working towards a strategic plan for the Big Thompson River. This project has many potential benefits for the river but it also helps CPW connect and form relationships with other partners on the river. Finally, through their 71 outreach efforts, are getting the community outside and connected to nature.

    The Big Thompson Watershed Coalition is a good partner to CPW for the many beneficial projects they have completed in watershed health and resilience planning; construction of river restoration improvements; forest health improvement projects; and community involvement opportunities in watershed stewardship through project planning/design, restoration workdays, monitoring, and organizational board leadership.

    Southwest Region Partner of the Year:
    Durango Wildlife Volunteers

    This organized group of volunteers has continually partnered with CPW to educate over 250,000 visitors at CPW’s Wildlife Museum in Durango about Colorado’s wildlife and ecosystems. The Durango Wildlife Museum Volunteers provide a public service and outreach that would not be possible with staff time and resources, making it an essential natural resource education program for CPW. The volunteers provide exceptional customer service and have recorded over 14,000 volunteer hours, equivalent to 6.7 full-time employees.

    The Durango Wildlife Volunteers provide a public service and outreach that would not be possible with staff time and resources, making it an essential natural resource education program for CPW, one of the agency’s core competencies. Since the 1990s, museum volunteers have partnered with CPW to recruit, train, and retain committed volunteers annually. They assist CPW in providing “real life” opportunities for our youth to experience leading interpretive education to our community and visitors. They are dedicated to CPW’s mission while increasing awareness about wildlife management and participation in outdoor recreation while promoting conservation and stewardship of natural resources. Over the last three years, Durango Wildlife Volunteers have reached an average of 15,300 visitors annually with a record 16,923 in 2019.

    @COParksWildlife: Bear rescued from East Canyon fire in southwest #Colorado

    This bear was rescued on June 16, 2020 from the East Canyon fire in souithwest Colorado by Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers. It is shown at CPW’s rehabilitation facility in the San Luis Valley. Photo credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife

    Here’s the release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Joe Lewandowski):

    Bear rescued by Colorado Parks and Wildlife from East Canyon fire

    A bear whose feet were badly burned during the East Canyon fire was rescued Tuesday by Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers and is now being cared for at a CPW facility in Del Norte. The bear is expected to make a full recovery.

    “We always hate to see injured animals, but we’re pleased we were able to rescue this bear so we can nurse it back to health and return it to the wild,” said Matt Thorpe, area wildlife manager in Durango.

    CPW’s Durango wildlife office received a call from the fire dispatch center late Tuesday afternoon explaining that firefighters saw a bear that appeared to be injured. It walked across a meadow and into reeds next to a pond. The location was on the east side of the Cherry Creek Road which is on the east side of the fire. The fire is burning about 30 miles west of Durango.

    Wildlife officers Steve McClung, Andy Brown and Thorpe left as soon as they received the call and arrived on scene at 5:40 p.m. When the officers approached, the bear did not move.

    “You could tell it was really hurting,” McClung said.

    The bear was sitting in reeds and the officers used poles to push back the vegetation. That allowed them to administer a tranquilizer dart to sedate the bear. The officers examined the bear and found that its feet were burned. The bear was then placed in a trap and transported to the Frisco Creek wildlife rehabilitation facility for evaluation and treatment.

    The bear is a male yearling, which means it was born during the winter in 2019 and is now living on its own. Bears usually stay with their mothers for a year. It was moving alone when it was spotted by the firefighters.

    “Across the road from where we found it the area was burned heavily,” McClung said. “There were little spot fires and some stumps burning. We can’t say exactly what happened, but it probably got caught and had to move across some hot spots.”

    Michael Sirochman, veterinary manager at Frisco Creek, said the bears paws were burned, but not so deeply that the animal was permanently injured.

    “The prognosis is good and the underlying tissue is healthy,” Sirochman said. “We cut off the burned tissue that was sloughing off and we put on bandages.”

    He said the bear weighed 43 pounds and was quite thin, but that’s not unusual for yearlings at this time of year. He expects that the bear will be ready for release in about eight weeks. The bear is being kept in a cage with concrete floors to assure the wounds will stay clean.

    Bears that are taken in for rehabilitation are usually released near the same area where they were found.

    This is the second rescue of a burned bear that Durango wildlife officers have been involved with in the past two years. A bear cub, whose feet were burned, was found during the 416 Fire north of Durango in 2018. It was also taken to Frisco Creek where it made a full recovery thanks to the care that it received from CPW veterinary staff. After it went into hibernation the bear was placed in a man-made den with another cub in the mountains west of Durango in January 2019. Game cameras showed that the bears emerged successfully from the den. No other information is known about those bears.

    The photo below shows the condition of the bear’s paws. Photo credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife