Click here to read the update (Megan Holcomb & Tracy Kosloff):
Drought conditions in Colorado continue as we reach our ninth straight month of above-average temperatures combined with eleven months of below-average precipitation. The state experienced the 15th warmest October-January on record and noted an overall increased temperature of 2.5°F above Colorado’s 20th century average. Despite the cold weather in mid-February, the month has shown warmer temperatures west of the divide and record-breaking low temperatures to the east. Holyoke reached their 5th coldest temperature on record at -30°F and Lamar recorded their 3rd coldest temperature at -27°F on the 15th of February.
The U.S. Drought Monitor from February 11th recorded exceptional (D4) drought conditions across 25% of the state, which dropped to 18% on the February 18th monitor. Extreme (D3) drought covers 41% of the state; severe (D2) drought covers 30%; and moderate (D1) drought covers 10%.
The 90-day Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) values from Nov 16 to Feb 13 highlight the northern mountains and central northern areas of the state in dry conditions. Eastern Colorado reflects select areas of above average precipitation after recent January snowstorms. However, the 12-month SPI map provides more accurate depictions of the 2020 deficits across the state.
Through January statewide snowpack was 65% of normal. After a few February storms, statewide snowpack rose to 88% of normal as of Feb. 25th. State reservoir storage is currently at 83% of average. Extreme soil moisture deficits and below normal precipitation means all basins should prepare for a low runoff year. The continuance of drought is expected through 2021 and the State Drought Plan remains in Phase 3 activation.
Water providers report slightly below average storage levels and near normal winter demands. Drought management planning and potential restrictions are being discussed through multiple coordinated groups. In January, over 120 water providers completed a CWCB needs survey to inform statewide drought coordination and near-term Municipal Water Task Force efforts.