Despite recent snowstorms, #Colorado’s #drought conditions continue in “anomalous” direction — The Colorado Sun

From The Colorado Sun (Lucy Haggard):

Thursday’s drought monitor report estimates that 27.22% of the state is in “exceptional” drought, a category indicating drought conditions that historically have occurred every 50 years.

This is up from 24.64% last week. The week-to-week increase came mostly from the southwestern corner of the state, which was previously in the “extreme” category. This category is for conditions historically occurring every 10 years.

Colorado Drought Monitor November 17, 2020.

Some of the reasons for the current drought include the low snow totals from last winter, little rain this summer and a continued lack of precipitation into the fall. In the southwest, these factors have meant that soil moisture has continued to drop, and stream flows are much lower than normal.

Rich Tinker, a meteorologist with the Climate Prediction Center and author of this week’s report, noted that even after the state’s recent snowstorms, it’s too soon to tell if they indicate a change in momentum, or if they’re “just a blip on the radar” in what could be a very dry winter…

All of Colorado has been in some degree of drought since mid-October. The last time this happened was in 2013, and even then, “exceptional” drought was not as widespread as it is now.

US Drought Monitor November 5, 2013

Of the 1,090 weeks that the U.S. Drought Monitor has put out its national report, Colorado has seen just seven weeks when “exceptional” drought was this widespread, Tinker said. They all occurred in 2002.

US Drought Monitor August 6, 2002

“This is a pretty anomalous situation that we’re in,” he said…

Tinker noted that the impacts of climate change further emphasize the need to put data in an updated context. “When does dry become normal if it’s always dry?” he said.

From The Rifle Citizen Telegram (Ray K. Erku) via The Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

Garfield County is on track to endure one of its worst droughts since 2002, according to a National Weather Service meteorologist…

Meanwhile, exceptional drought conditions – the highest intensity on the drought monitor – cover the majority of the rest of the Western Slope and Southwest regions of the state. To the east, the Front Range and High Plains are also threatened by either abnormally dry or moderate to severe drought conditions…

But, Jim Pokrandt, director of community affairs for the Colorado River District in Glenwood Springs, said the currently dry soils of the Western Slope could pose a threat to the efficacy of a good snowpack altogether.

The same thing happened this past year. The Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys welcomed an average to slightly above average snowpack. The snow, however, fell on dry soils, causing a domino effect on the ensuing spring and summer seasons.

“What it means is, we’re going into this snowpack season with dry soils once again,” Pokrandt explained. “The problem with dry soils is that they have a degrading effect on next spring’s runoff.”

There is, however, another factor that could make or break next year’s soil conditions: La Nina.

Pokrandt said the entire country this year falls under this weather pattern, meaning time will only tell whether the valley gets hit with a decent amount of snow this coming winter season. Typically, places like Wyoming, Utah and mostly northern Colorado reap the benefits of a precipitation-heavy La Nina.

On the flipside, La Nina is a phenomena that typically leaves parts of southwest Colorado, New Mexico and California high and dry, according to Pokrandt. It’s sibling weather pattern, El Nino, means dryer conditions in the northern part of the Rockies.

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