For the second week in a row we’ve seen some noticeable improvements on the Colorado Drought Monitor. This is fantastic news as Colorado continues to deal with significant levels of drought.
Since October of 2020 all of Colorado has been classified as experiencing “Moderate” drought or higher. We’ve finally broken that streak with a small portion returning to “Abnormally Dry” as of the latest Drought Monitor update. Although “Abnormally Dry” is a category on the Drought Monitor, it only signifies that the area is at a risk of drought. This means that after about 4 months of 100% drought, a small area of Colorado is finally “drought-free,” but not yet out of the woods.
Looking at the maps comparing February 16 to February 23, there are a few notable differences. Of course, there is the return of “Abnormally Dry” to the map, but you’ll also notice that the Exceptional Drought, our highest level of drought, covering N El Paso and Teller Counties has been reduced to “Extreme.” Southern Colorado now only has one area of Exceptional Drought left in the E Plains. Unfortunately, this area has yet to see signs of significant improvement with most of our recent snow events missing the area or providing very little moisture there.
In addition to the return of drought-free conditions to a part of the state we’ve also seen a continued decrease in levels of Exceptional and Extreme drought with both categories dropping about 2% from last week. Snowpack continues to climb to near normal levels or just above for our major river basins. We’re still in a very bad drought and much more rain and snow is needed before we’re back near drought-free levels state wide. Over 98% of the state is still in drought.
Will we see more improvement?
Continued improvement is likely but we need consistent moisture events to continue if we hope to see further reductions in our drought levels. This will likely be the case as our La Niña conditions are forecast to return to “neutral” as we transition into Spring.
What is the Drought Monitor? Does FOX21 decide what’s on it?
The Drought Monitor is produced out of the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus. They measure levels of drought across the country measuring data Wednesday-Tuesday and releasing the update Drought Monitor every Thursday. According to their website:
The Drought Monitor has been a team effort since its inception in 1999, produced jointly by the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).From The United States Drought Monitor website.
They do not categorize drought for Colorado alone, they do so for the entire country and FOX21 has no part in the collection or interpretation of their data. We simply report on the Drought Monitor updates, create our own long-term forecasts for improvement or decline and report on the local impacts of drought.