Nearly half of #Colorado emerges from #drought conditions while Western Slope remains dry and at risk for fire (May 24, 2021) — The Colorado Sun

West Drought Monitor map May 18, 2021.

From The Colorado Sun (Zach Bright):

Recent rainfall has been a boon for eastern Colorado. The Front Range has enjoyed abundant precipitation and nearly half of the state’s geographic area has shed drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

But the Western Slope hasn’t been blessed with the same precipitation levels, leaving a brutal drought and a high risk for fire to worry about.

Assistant state climatologist Becky Bolinger said it’s typical for conditions on one side of the Continental Divide to differ from the other. And western Colorado usually gets more precipitation than the east because of the jet stream…

Bolinger predicts snowpack to the west will melt by the end of the month…

Outlooks from the Climate Prediction Center suggest Colorado is headed for another hot and dry summer. On average, June is the driest time of year for southwest Colorado, where relief won’t come until the onset of the summer monsoon season. Bolinger said thunderstorms can pop up anywhere, even in dry conditions, that could provide some relief.

From The Kiowa County Press (Chris Sorensen):

The latest report from the National Drought Mitigation Center shows that 48 percent of Colorado has shifted to drought-free or abnormally dry conditions since the start of the year. In January, all of the state was in some level of drought, with 77 percent in extreme or exceptional drought – the two worst categories.

Improvements – at least for eastern Colorado – began in mid-March as significant snow brought the first hints of relief. During May, thunderstorms have continued to bring rain to the state’s eastern plains, resulting in drought-free conditions for most northeast counties, with much of the southeast moving to abnormally dry, a step below moderate drought.

The first drought-free area in Colorado since mid-2020 appeared in late April.

Colorado Drought Monitor map May 18, 2021.

Over the past reporting period, between one-half and three inches of rain have fallen across the region, with storms producing higher amounts in localized areas.

Western Colorado continues to be dominated by extreme and exceptional drought. Portions of Moffat, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties have even seen conditions further degrade over the past few months, moving from extreme drought into exceptional.

Over the past week, nearly all of the eastern half of the state which had not already shifted to drought-free condition showed at least one category of improvement. Portions of El Paso, Elbert and Lincoln counties remained in moderate conditions, while southern Las Animas County saw severe drought shrink, though a strip remains along the border with New Mexico.

Southern Baca County saw two levels of category improvement, moving from severe to abnormally dry conditions. Much of central Huerfano, southern Pueblo and far north Las Animas counties also shifted by two categories, moving from moderate drought to drought-free. A remaining area of extreme drought in Las Animas County moved to severe conditions.

Colorado Drought Monitor one week change map ending May 18, 2021.

Kiowa County has seen a particularly dramatic improvement since the start of the year. At that time, the bulk of the county was in extreme drought, with a persistent bullseye of exceptional conditions covering the central part of the county for months. With the most recent report, western and eastern Kiowa County are abnormally dry, with the central area in moderate drought, dropping from severe last week.

Overall, 23 percent of the state is drought-free, up from 13 percent last week, with an additional 25 percent in abnormally dry conditions, up from 12 percent in the previous week. Moderate drought covered 13 percent of Colorado, down from 32 percent, while severe drought dropped from 14 to 10 percent. Extreme and exceptional drought were unchanged at 13 and 16 percent, respectively.

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