Severe Drought Conditions Expanding in S.W. Colorado


The National Weather Service has updated the state Drought Impact Statement for this past month.  March of 2015 came in like a lion and left like a lamb across south central and southeast Colorado.  The weather pattern for February continued into March, cool and unsettled.  A much warmer and dry weather pattern developed through the middle of the month with several record high temperatures being tied or set.  A potent and quick moving weather system brought needed mountain snowfall along with rain and snow over lower elevations, between March 18 and 19.  Another quick moving system brought precipitation to mainly eastern portions of the area around March 25th.  For the month as a whole, below to well below normal precipitation and above to well above normal temperatures were experienced across south central and southeast Colorado.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor has introduced several drought (D2) conditions across portions of western and southwestern Colorado.  D2 conditions remain on the southeast plains including the eastern two-thirds of Crowley County, eastern Otero County, the eastern two-thirds of Las Animas County and all of Bent, Kiowa, Baca and Prowers Counties.

CPC and VIC soil moisture calculations continue to indicate near normal conditions across most of south central and southeast Colorado with some pockets of drier than normal conditions being indicated across portions of southwestern mountain and the lower Arkansas River Valley.

The cold and snowy weather of late February and early March was short lived across Colorado.  The cool and unsettled weather saw an abrupt end around March 6th with the period from the 6th to April 1st being the second driest for the period of record dating back to 1986, just behind the same period timeframe of 2012.  The April 1st statewide snowpack fell to 69% of normal which is down from the 87% reported last month and is only 62% of the snowpack at this same time last year.  Out of the 30 year period of record, the 69% April 1st statewide snowpack ranks third from the minimum year of 2002.  The April snowpack report for the Arkansas Basin remained one of the highest in the state, running at 87% of average overall.  This is down from the 101% reported last month and is only 78% of the snowpack reported at this same time last year.

Statewide reservoir levels at the end of March came in at 107% of average overall.  This is up slightly from the 105% of average storage last month and is also above the 89% of the average storage available at this same time last year.  However, storage levels across southern portions of the state are lagging well behind the storage levels across northern portions of the state.

In the Arkansas Basin, storage levels on April 1st remained around 80% of average overall reported last month and remains above the 60% of average storage levels reported at this same time last year.  The warm and dry March has put a damper on late spring and early summer stream flow runoff forecasts, especially across southern portions of the state.  In the Arkansas Basin, latest stream flow forecasts range from 80% of average overall for the Arkansas River at Salida to around 62% of average overall for the Cucharas River near La Veta.

Filed Under: AgriculturecommunityCountyEnvironmentFeaturedLamarMedia ReleaseProwers CountyWeather


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