Aspen-area fire officials bank on rain to ease conditions nearly as dry as 2018 — The Aspen Times

From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

The return of afternoon monsoons to the Roaring Fork Valley cannot come quick enough for outdoor enthusiasts hitting dusty trails, gardeners coaxing plants along or especially fire chiefs fearing wildfires.

The monsoons typically appear in late June and continue into September, bringing frequent afternoon showers. They have been slow to appear this summer, but that might be about to change.

The National Weather Service expects a 20% to 40% chance of showers and thunderstorms starting later this week and continuing each day for at least the next week in the Colorado mountains, according to Jeff Colton, a warning coordination meteorologist with the NWS office in Grand Junction. He cautioned against expecting copious amounts of moisture…

Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties as well as the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management in the region are currently in stage one restrictions. That prohibits campfires outside of developed recreation areas. All fireworks are banned…

West Drought Monitor July 7, 2020.

Colton said the rain that is forecast isn’t likely to break the grip of a drought affecting all of Colorado. The U.S. Drought Monitor issued by federal weather agencies July 9 shows all of Pitkin County in moderate drought and the extreme western side of the county in severe drought.

The Drought Monitor stressed that the classification is based on broad-scale conditions and that local conditions may vary.

Aspen has managed to stay close to the annual average for precipitation through June, according to records kept at the Aspen Water Department’s plant in Maroon Creek Valley. May was below average but June was slightly above average, thanks in large part to nearly 5 inches of snow June 9 (see related fact box)…

Meteorologist Colton said the snowpack last winter was close to normal, but a lack of snowfall in late winter and an extended period of dry winds starting in May quickly ate up the snowpack. The same low pressure in the Pacific Northwest that has prevented monsoonal moisture to form for Colorado also is responsible for the drying winds, he said.

The dry winds, quickly disappearing snowpack and spotty rainfall have sapped the moisture from the ground. Richmond Ridge Road, which typically harbors massive mud puddles at this time of year, was bone dry Saturday. Trails throughout the valley have been pulverized to dust.

Aspen Global Change Institute has installed 10 field stations around the Roaring Fork Valley that measure ground moisture at various depths as well as precipitation and air temperature.

Sky Mountain Park in the hills above the intersection of Brush Creek Road and Highway 82 is showing soil moisture at the 8-inch depth at about 17% compared to about 14% at this time in 2018.

However, farther downvalley, the soil moisture is drier in some spots than in 2018. The soil moisture at Spring Valley near the Colorado Mountain College campus is at about 12% compared to 17% in 2018.

At Glenwood Springs, the average daily soil moisture at eight-inch depth is about 14 percent, the same as in 2018.

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