drought

The federal agency that oversees water in the West says southwestern states are facing an increasing risk of water shortages. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is now adding pressure to stalled talks over the Colorado River’s future.

Without action from states that rely on the river, there’s a 52 percent chance the Colorado River will be in an official shortage in 2020, according to figures compiled last month. Arizona and Nevada would be among the first to take cutbacks during a shortage. An extended drought and chronic overuse have sapped the river’s largest reservoirs.

2018 wasn't the worst winter on record for the southern Rocky Mountain region, but it was close to it.

“It was an extreme year on the dry side, widespread across the Colorado River Basin,” says Greg Smith, a hydrologist at the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center (CBRFC) in Salt Lake City.

From the roof of Chuck McAfee’s adobe farmhouse in rural southwestern Colorado, you can see into three other states: Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Mountain peaks are just barely visible above the horizon.

Even though this part of Montezuma County is considered the high desert, it’s common for these grass and sagebrush hills to be snow-covered into spring. This year they’re bare, and have been since last winter.

Drought has basically divided the Mountain West into two separate regions this year.

Storms kept Idaho, Montana and Wyoming wet over the winter, and the national Drought Monitor shows no drought in those states.

Gallup

A new Gallup poll shows the majority of Americans do believe in climate change. The poll shows 66% of Americans believe that most scientists think global warming is occurring, 64% believe it is caused by human activities, and 60% believe its effects have already begun.

How bad is 2018 snowpack in the southern Rocky Mountains, you ask?

Let me count the ways.

Currently, snowpack in the Upper Colorado River Basin, which supplies the vast majority of water for what is arguably the southwest’s most important river system, sits at 69 percent of median. In 2002, the watershed’s driest year on record, there was more snow on the ground at this point in March than there is now.

Western Illinois might be close to the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, but it’s the driest part of the state this year.

“We really haven’t really had any measurable rain since the middle of October,” says Ken Schafer, who farms winter wheat, corn and soybeans in Jerseyville, north of St. Louis. “I dug some post-holes this winter, and it's just dust.”

National Resources Conservation Service / www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov

Southern Colorado progressed from abnormally dry to moderate drought this week, according to the latest data from the US Drought Monitor. This comes as the region -- like the rest of the state -- is also seeing unusually low snowpack.

When you’ve held on to something valuable for a long time, it can be hard to choose to give it up. When that something is water, it’s even harder — especially in the desert southwest.

But that’s the reality facing water managers in the lower stretches of the Colorado River, a lifeline for farms and cities in the country’s driest regions.

Public Domain

A recent study suggests the Colorado River could see a 35% flow reduction by the end of the 21st century due to the effects of climate change.

Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, [LC-USF343-001617-ZE] / Library of Congress

A new study looked into what would happen if the modern agricultural industry was to experience a 1930s Dust Bowl style event.

Malika Ladak / Flickr-Creative Commons

The Colorado State Forest Service is reminding folks to keep up with watering their trees throughout the winter.

Deborah Bathke / National Drought Mitigation Center

Colorado residents have been enjoying unusually warm weather so far this fall, but that means drought conditions throughout the state.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor shows most of Colorado in some state of dry or drought conditions.  That's compared to about 20% last year at this time.

Mark Wankowski is a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Pueblo. He says we're likely to have snow in the northern mountains this winter, but it will probably stay dry in the southern part of the state.

Toby R. Ault, Justin S. Mankin, Benjamin I. Cook and Jason E. Smerdon / Journal: Science Advances

A recent study shows megadroughts could become more common throughout the Southwest. The study suggests droughts lasting at least 35 years will become longer and dryer as temperatures continue to rise.

Southeast Colorado received some much needed precipitation after experiencing some pretty dry conditions.

Thursday Newscast, 4/14/16, 5:32 PM

Apr 14, 2016

Newscast for Thursday, April 14, 2016, 5:32 PM:
 


Thursday Newscast, 3/17/16, 5:32 PM

Mar 17, 2016

Newscast for Thursday, March 17, 2016, 5:32 PM:
 


USGCRP

A recently released study suggests droughts in the southwest could last longer and have more severe impacts in the future.  The study, performed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), compared 35 years of observational data to existing climate models.

Environment Colorado / Screen Grab

An environmental advocacy group has a new interactive extreme weather map that charts natural disasters across the nation and in Colorado. 

Wednesday Newscast, 2/10/16, 7:04 AM

Feb 10, 2016

Newscast for Wednesday, February 10, 2016, 7:04 AM:
 


U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation

A new interactive website from the U.S. Department of the Interior looks to educate the public on the effects of drought in the Colorado River Basin.

Friday Newscast, 1/22/16, 8:04 AM

Jan 22, 2016

Newscast for Friday, January 22, 2016, 8:04 AM:
 


Brian Fuchs, National Drought Mitigation Center; David Simeral, Western Regional Climate Center / U.S. Drought Monitor

Dry conditions across Colorado have largely disappeared, according to the latest U. S. Drought Monitor. 

Only a small portion of the state remains listed under the "Abnormally Dry"  classification, compared with more than a quarter last week.  Those remaining dry locations are in the northwest and southwest portions of the state.  

No portion of Colorado currently faces drought conditions.

The U. S. Drought Monitor shows about 98% of the state clear of all classifications of drought and dry conditions, compared with 59% one year ago.

The National Weather Service in Pueblo says Colorado Springs received a record breaking 3.16 inches of rain Monday.  The old record, set more than a century ago in 1914, was 2.27 inches.  The record-breaking day comes after a record-breaking month of May, which, for the most part, removed southern Colorado from lingering drought conditions. 

Anthony Artusa / NOAA/NWS/NCEP/CPC

Up to two inches of rain have fallen in parts of southern Colorado today, providing additional relief to some dry conditions in the plains.  KRCC’s Dana Cronin reports.
 

As of the end of April, the U.S. Drought Monitor showed portions of southern Colorado were still classified as severe drought.

Eric Petersen, a Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pueblo, says the rain is helping ease those dry conditions.

David Simeral / Western Regional Climate Center

The recent pile up of snow in southern Colorado is helping to ease the state’s drought conditions.  KRCC’s Dana Cronin reports.
 

The U.S. Drought Monitor says about 63% of the sate is dealing with abnormally dry or drought conditions compared with 72% at this time last year.

The precipitation in southern Colorado is above average, says Larry Walrod, a lead forecaster with the National Weather Service in Pueblo.  Walrod also says NOAA recently released an El Niño advisory.

Richard Tinker / NOAA/NWS/NCEP/CPC

Experts from western states are gathering in New Mexico to talk about drought and its impacts on recreation and tourism.  KRCC's Tucker Hampson reports.
 

A video from the Western Governors Association shows a montage of streams and water formations affected by drought, some dry and barren.

Richard Tinker / NOAA/NWS/NCEP/CPC

Drought conditions in Colorado have seen another week of slight improvements across the state, and the worst category of drought has disappeared altogether.  One week ago, about .5% of Colorado was classified as “Exceptional Drought,” all in southeastern Colorado.  Now, that area is categorized under  “Extreme Drought.” One year ago, 3% of the state was listed as “Exceptional Drought.” 

The U. S. Drought Monitor currently shows normal conditions across 60% of Colorado.  One year ago, that number was 1.5%.

David Miskus / NOAA/NWS/NCEP/CPC

Rainfall in Southern Colorado has been noticeably high for the past few days. But, as KRCC’s Dana Cronin reports, the rain is actually following a pattern more typical of this region.

In the past week, parts of El Paso County may have received as much as six inches of rain. Yesterday’s moisture accounted for about half that. 

The National Weather Service in Pueblo says Southern Colorado is experiencing a fairly typical monsoon season, which the region hasn’t seen in the past decade or so.

Parts of Southeast Colorado are experiencing a longer period of drought than the dry times that occurred during the Dust Bowl.

According to Nolan Doesken, the state climatologist, the past three years and eight months have been the driest stretch ever recorded for some parts of the state, including Rocky Ford, La Junta and Ordway.

"It was drier than the worst consecutive drought period of the 30s and of the 50s," said Doesken.

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