COLORADO — The recent snow kept Colorado’s drought from getting worse, but unfortunately, the state didn’t see any major benefit to the ongoing drought. When Colorado is running this dry it’s going to take more than just a single storm to break out of a drought this extreme.
“It was a small portion of the deficit we’re in. In Pueblo we’re down over 8 inches over the last 15 months,” said Tony Anderson, a Service Hydrologist with the National Weather Service.
In Colorado Springs, it’s closer to 9 inches below average. That’s how much rain or snow we would need just to get moisture levels back to ground zero.
“Our first step is make up for what we’ve haven’t gotten for the last 15 months. We have to replace the deficit that’s there. So our soils need to be replenished and if we’re in the growing season the vegetation need to be rehydrated,” Anderson said.
In other words, the soil is so dry the first step to start chipping away at this drought is replenishing the ground and vegetation.
“The simplest way I like to explain things are like bank accounts. And what we’ve done this year is we’ve overdrawn on our bank account. And we made one payment. And that payment helped but it definitely doesn’t take you back to the zero level you want to be at,” said Becky Bolinger, Ph.D.
Bolinger is an Assistant State Climatologist with the Colorado Climate Center.
What Colorado needs is a winter snowpack that makes up for several months of below-average precipitation. The state also needs consistent rain and snow.
“If we get a dry year and we start dry that seriously impacts the availability of water next year in our rivers and reservoirs,” said Anderson.
“Returning to a dry, warm pattern means the benefit of that is pretty limited. Hopefully we will start to see a turn around in the winter where mountains get snows every week and then keeping that snow around. That would be the best thing we could have for this drought right now,” said Bolinger.
A lot of snow and cold, wet spring is exactly what Colorado needs to leave this extreme drought behind in 2020. Unfortunately, long-term models don’t look promising with a strong La Nina pattern in place likely through the end of November.
“If we do go back into that more active storm pattern, especially for the mountains, that’s really going to help us come next spring to recover from what we’ve seen,” said Bolinger.
This drought comes on the heels of the driest and warmest September on record for Colorado. It also didn’t help that Colorado didn’t get monsoonal moisture over the summer.
“This is concerning because it’s really the 4th year in a row not having monsoon moisture rescue us at the end of summer,” said Bolinger.