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Extreme Drought expands into Southern Colorado

February 2018 Drought Map

 

SYNOPSIS…UPDATED

A weather pattern change early in February brought some much needed precipitation to portions of Southern Colorado, especially the Southwest Mountains. This precipitation, however, did little to change the substantial precipitation deficits that have been accumulated throughout the 2018 Water Year across South Central and Southeast Colorado.

With that said, the latest US Drought Monitor, issued Thursday, March 15th, 2018, has expanded extreme drought (D3) conditions into Southeast Colorado, including most of Baca and Prowers Counties, southeastern Bent County and extreme southeastern Las Animas County. Extreme drought (D3) conditions also remain depicted across Southwest Colorado into extreme southwestern Conejos County.

Severe drought (D2) conditions remain depicted across extreme northwestern Baca County, northern Prowers County, the rest of Bent County and most of the rest of Las Animas County. Severe drought (D2) conditions remain depicted across Kiowa County, most of Huerfano, Crowley and Otero Counties, as well as the southern half of Custer County. Severe drought (D2) conditions are also depicted across Mineral County, Rio Grande County, the rest of Conejos County, Alamosa County, and Costilla County, as well as the southern 2/3rds of Saguache County.

Moderate drought (D1) conditions are indicated across most of the rest of south central and southeast Colorado including the rest of Saugache, Custer, Huerfano, Las Animas, Crowley and Otero Counties, as well as western portions of Chaffee County and eastern portions of Fremont County, Teller County, El Paso County, and Pueblo County.

Abnormally Dry (D0) conditions are depicted across western portions of Fremont County and eastern portions of Chaffee County, as well as Lake County.

DROUGHT IMPACTS…FIRE DANGER

Warm and dry conditions across the region over the past several months, combined with abundant cured fuels, has allowed for moderate to high fire danger to develop and persist across much of South Central and Southeast Colorado. A pattern change in early February brought some snow cover and a brief respite to the high fire danger across southeastern Colorado into the middle of the month. However, warm and windy weather through the last half of February has allowed for a return of dry fuels and high fire danger to the area once again.

AGRICULTURAL

The very warm and dry late Fall and Winter has helped to dry out soil moisture across south central and southeast Colorado.

HYDROLOGIC

The March 1st statewide snowpack showed considerable improvement over last month, though still failed to reach normal levels, coming in at only 72 percent of median. This is only 52 percent of the snowpack available at this same time last year.

In the Arkansas Basin, March 1st snowpack came in at 64 percent of median, and is only 45 percent of the available snowpack at this same time last year. As with the state as a whole, there remain big differences in the distribution of said snowpack, with the northern portions of the Arkansas Basin coming in at 84 percent of normal, while the southern portions of the basin are running between 25 and 35 percent of normal.

The Rio Grande Basin saw the biggest improvement across the state over the past month, however, the March 1st snowpack came in at only 55 percent of median. This is only 40 percent of last year’s snowpack at this same time.

Water storage across the state at the end of February remained around 116 percent of average overall, as compared to 108 percent of average storage available at this same time last year.

In the Arkansas Basin, end of February storage was at 142 percent of average overall, as compared to 103 percent of average storage available at this same time last year. Reservoir storage in the Arkansas Basin remains the highest in the state.

In the Rio Grande Basin, end of February storage remained around 121 percent of average overall, as compared to 91 percent of average storage available at this same time last year.

With over 2/3rd of the normal accumulating season in the books, streamflow forecasts for the Spring and Summer continue to be below average statewide. Near average to below average flows area projected across northern portions of the state, with below to well below average flows across the southern half of the state.

PRECIPITATION/TEMPERATURE OUTLOOK

The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) outlook for the next 2 weeks indicates better chances for below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation across South Central Colorado, with below normal precipitation and above normal temperatures across Southeast Colorado. The outlook for rest of March, April and May continues to indicate a nod to warmer than normal temperatures and below normal precipitation across the region.

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