Exceptional #drought conditions across W. Slope — The Rio Blanco Herald-Times #GreenRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

From The Rio Blanco Herald-Times (Lucas Turner):

April 2021 was “exceptionally dry” according to the latest statistics from the USDA’s National Resource Conservation Service. NRCS Hydrologist Joel Atwood noted “Many SNOTEL sites reported record low precipitation for April west of the Continental Divide. Snowpack has also declined in all basins except the South Platte, due to higher temperature and below-average precipitation.”

West Drought Monitor map May 18, 2021.

According to the U.S. Drought monitor, the region is experiencing D4 drought level classified as “exceptional drought,” the highest level under extreme (D3), severe (D2), moderate (D1) and abnormally dry (D0).

Despite the well-below-average precipitation levels in the Yampa–White River Basin last month, reservoir storage is sitting at 106% of average. NRCS’ latest report notes however that consistent dry conditions since last summer combined with last month’s lack of precipitation compounded drought conditions. Atwood said, “With much of the snowpack in many basins already melted out, persistent dry soil conditions, and little hope for substantial precipitation moving into summer, runoff volumes will continue to be meager.” Streamflow volumes for all basins west of the Continental Divide are projected between 34 and 73 percent this summer…

Severe to exceptional drought conditions persist across much of the state, with many Western Slope counties seeing the most significant decreases in precipitation and available water in storage. As an example, SNOTEL sites in the San Juan region are reporting just 40% median snowpack.

Statewide, apart from the South Platte River Basin (which has 102% median snowpack), all other basins are reporting less than 80% average snowpack. Snowpack in the Yampa/White River basin is at 73% of median for this time of year.

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