Colorado Reaches Record Low Drought Levels

Submitted by Andy on Thu, 05/23/2019 - 12:33

It’s no surprise that we’ve decreased the amount of drought covering the State. The 2018/2019 winter was one for the record books. From early season snows, to record March snows, to late season big producing snowstorms, the effects of this have been mostly all good.

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Current drought coverage as of May 23, 2019

Drought has been an issue for the state for quite some time. Try the last 20 months or so. Last year’s drought monitor as this time wasn’t great. More than 78% of the state was in some kind of drought with more than 33% of the state in the in extreme or exceptional drought, the two highest categories when talking about lack of water. This year, 99.99% of the state has no drought concerns at all! There is .01% of the state that is abnormally dry but when you look at the map that shows that, you can’t even tell where that location is on the map because it is such a tiny area. This is a record low number! The previous record was set back in May of 2001 when just .13% of the state was in a D0 drought, the lowest category there is besides none at all. According to the Colorado Climate Center, this is also the first time since records began in 2000 that Colorado has been completely void of D0-D4 drought.

Referencing the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the current (as of May 23, 2019) snowpack across the state is a whopping 252% of normal. This has far-reaching impacts as well. With the snow that falls in Colorado providing water to many surrounding states, a good water year for us means a good water year for those who use our water supply through the drier months.

The 2018/2019 snow season was bleak, to say the least. At this time last year, the snowpack compared to normal was only at 71%. Now, take that number and compare it to what we have this year…we have 662% more snow! That’s a big number and that just goes to show that last year was a little rough on our snowpack and water supply. To make this number a little bit more comprehensible, this year’s snowpack is 210% of average. Still a big number and very impressive to see.

Eldora Ski Resort has picked up 46 FEET of snow this season which equates to 552"! 

While we love getting the moisture, there is the concern of mud season lasting well into the summer months creating some sloppy excursions for those trying to enjoy mountain activities sooner than later. Also, on some of the highest peaks this summer, especially the north facing summits, snow is likely to hang around through next winter! If you’re planning on summiting any 14ers, keep in mind conditions will be very different compared to lower elevations.

Another great fact is that a lot of the ski resorts use snowmelt to fill their ‘snowmaking ponds’. Snowmaking ponds are filled with runoff and used as the water source to create the snow that is used earlier in the winter season. Many of those ponds are already full! Many of the reservoirs, that were very depleted due to the lack of snow last year, will fill back up to near-normal levels. Also, with how wet the state is, we could except a less active wildfire season.

According to the Climate Prediction Centers 3-month outlook, we’re looking at a 40-50% of having above normal precipitation through August.

 

Andy Stein

Andy is Colorado Ski Country's Communication Coordinator. He is also a trained meteorologist with over 6 years of experience working most recently as a broadcast meteorologist. Andy loves Colorado and has been skiing since he was 4 years old. The weather in Colorado fascinates him which makes working for a very weather dependent industry very appealing. 
 

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