Dust, Then and Now


National Weather Service Satelite Photo Between Lamar & Garden City on November 10, 2012

Those who watched the Ken Burns documentary on PBS tv earlier this month, “The Dust Bowl” gained a new respect for those who endured those conditions in the 1930s and 1950s in this part of the world.  Anyone who was in southeast Colorado or western Kansas this past November 10, got a taste of what some of those conditions were like, as evidenced by a National Weather Service satellite photo of the dust storm situated between Lamar and Garden City, Kansas.  It appears as if waves of wind-blown dust were spread across 100 miles of territory between the two cities, and also impacted those residents who were north and south and in the line of that dust storm.   Stark evidence that the drought is still with us.  Given the strength and intensity of the storms from 80 years ago, you have to wonder what a satelite photo of those conditions would have looked like.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board released figures showing that, “With ten consecutive months of below average precipitation, the 2012 water year, which ended on September 30, saw just 75% of normal precipitation.”  “At this early stage in the snow accumulation seasons, snowpack is at 45% of average.”  “Currently, this calendar year ranks as the 2nd warmest on record (1895-2012) with a statewide average temperature of 51.7 degrees F.  As of the November 20, 2012 U.S. Drought Monitor, 100% of Colorado is experiencing some level of drought classification.  D2 (severe) and D3 (extreme) cover nearly 79% of the state, while 13% of the state is experiencing exceptional drought (D4), isolated to the Eastern Plains.  This is a slight decrease in the D4 classification since the state of the water year on October 1, 2012.  D4 conditions are found across Crowley, Otero and Kiowa Counties, as well as most of Bent and Prowers Counties. 

Statewide reservoir storage is at 66% of average and 37% of capacity.  The lowest storage rate in Colorado is the Rio Grande River basin at 47% of storage.  As of November 19, all of the state is below average for precipitation with the southern portions of the state drier than the northern half. 

The National Weather Service in Pueblo reports that CPS and VIC soil moisture calculations continue to indicate drier than normal conditions across most of south central and southeast Colorado with the worst conditions persisting across portions of the southeast plains.  The latest USDA Colorado Crop Report indicates the dry soil conditions with 68% of top soil moisture across the state rated as short or very short, compared to 72% last week and only 46% at this same time last year.  As for subsoil moisture, 91% was being reported as short or very short, compared to 92% last week and only 46% this same time last year.

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