Severe to Extreme Drought Conditions Expand across South Central and Southeast Colorado

Snow packs in the Arkansas and Rio Grande basins were near normal over the past winter. However, that snow was not enough to relieve the on- going drought which developed through the late summer and early fall of 2019, due to below average summer precipitation. Warm and mainly dry conditions over the past month of April and through the first half of May has led to deteriorating drought conditions across all of south central and southeast Colorado.

With that said, the latest US Drought Monitor, issued Thursday May 14th 2020, indicated Extreme drought (D3) conditions are indicated across eastern Crowley and Otero Counties, the western half of Kiowa County, all of Bent and Prowers Counties, as well as extreme northern portions of Baca County.

The latest US Drought Monitor also indicated severe drought (D2) conditions across most of the rest of south central and southeast Colorado, which includes western portions of Crowley and Otero Counties, eastern portions of Kiowa County and most of Baca County.

The warm and relatively dry weather over the past several months has led to continued depletion of soil moisture across the area, with the latest 1 month and 2 month Evaporate Demand Drought Index (EDDI)indicating the worst conditions across the southern tier of Colorado. The lack of soil moisture and the slow start to greenup has fire danger indices high to extreme across most of south central and southeast Colorado.



The May 11th, 2020 USDA Colorado Crop Progress Report indicated 52 percent of topsoil moisture across the state were reported at short or very short, compared to only 9 percent being reported at short or very short at this same time last year. Subsoil moisture faired only a little better with 43 percent being reported as short or very short statewide, as compared to 12 percent of subsoil moisture being reported as short to very short at this same time last year.


The May 1st Colorado Water Supply Outlook Report indicated statewide precipitation for the month of April came in at 59 percent of average, bringing statewide 2020 Water Year precipitation to 86 percent of average overall.

In the Arkansas Basin, NRCS data indicated April precipitation was 34 percent of average, which brings water year to date precipitation to 75 percent of average overall.

Colorado NRCS data indicated statewide snowpack reached its peak on April 4th at 104 percent of normal. On May 1st, statewide snowpack was at 94 percent of average overall, which is only 74 percent of the available snowpack at this same time last year. NRCS data also indicated big differences in the available snowpack, with the southern basins severally lagging the northern basins. These differences also show up in current streamflow forecasts across the state.

In the Arkansas Basin, NRCS data indicated May 1st snowpack was at 81 percent of average overall, which is 59 percent of the available snowpack at this same time last year. Current streamflow forecasts range from 41 percent of average for Grape Creek near Westcliffe to 87 percent of average for the Arkansas River at Salida.

Here are a few other statistics for select south central and southeast Colorado locations, indicating observed precipitation totals and departure from normals for the past month, past 3 months, past 6 months and past 365 days as of May 14, 2020:


  Month Total & Departure 3 Months Total & Departure 6 Months Total & Departure Past 365 Days Total & Dep
Eads 0.18/-1.26 1.30/-1.52 1.58/-2.42 13.85/-1.83
Lamar 0.22/-1.10 1.07/-1.46 1.72/-1.89 10.70/-4.50
Campo 0.31/-1.02 0.71/-2.00 1.94/-2.03 14.58/-2.38
Walsh 1W 0.81/-0.75 1.73/-1.40 2.69/-2.07 16.92/-2.24
Kim 15NNE 0.34/-1.37 2.07/-1.41 3.00/-2.40 12.54/-4.30
Canon City 0.48/-1.05 2.68/-0.46 3.87/-0.94 12.23/-1.24
Walsenburg 0.85/-1.33 2.60/-2.45 4.73/-3.48 14.47/-3.57
Trinidad 0.29/-.099 0.47/-2.55 1.81/-3.12 11.20/-5.11

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