Out of the drought in latest update

Weather

The United States Department of Agriculture released a new drought monitor Thursday, May 20 and some areas of southern Colorado no longer have any sort of moisture deficit.

From just to the southwest of Pueblo into the Wet Mountains the USDA says that rain and snow over the last several months means the ground, plants, trees and agricultural indicators show the drought has been eradicated. Additional improvement has been measure across other areas too, with only eastern El Paso County, Kiowa County and the Raton Mesa as being listed in the moderate drought category east of the mountains. western Fremont County and Chaffee County are also in a moderate drought – the lowest drought category on the USDA’s scale. While many areas are listed as “abnormally dry” and technically not in a drought – improvement has continued in the latest update.

Drought monitor comparison from May 6, 2021 to May 20, 2021. While conditions have improved over eastern Colorado, the western slope remains in an exceptional drought.

The slider above allow you to compare the May 4 drought monitor to the one released May 20. The improvement over eastern Colorado has been stark. More improvement is expected too – the drought monitor released this week does NOT contain impacts from our moisture earlier this week. This recent round of water won’t be reflected in the drought monitor until May 27 but a number of spots in southeast Colorado are likely to be out of drought conditions at that point.

That’s because a widespread heavy rain (and some snow up high) fell across a large area of southern Colorado late Monday and Tuesday morning. Many areas from Pueblo south had radar estimations of precipitation between 2″-5″ in the yellow, orange and red-shaded areas.

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Actual measured moisture from Monday into Tuesday from the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network show that radar estimations were pretty close to what was measured in standardized, scientific rain gauges.

Date of MonitorNo DroughtD1-D4D2-D4D3-D4D4
2021-05-2023.30%51.80%39.29%28.96%16.39%
2021-05-1313.05%75.19%43.27%29.45%16.39%
2021-05-067.84%79.86%51.85%31.01%16.39%
2021-04-291.19%89.13%60.45%32.13%16.68%
2021-04-221.19%89.13%60.45%32.13%14.65%
Percent Area in U.S. Drought Monitor Categories by week from April 22 – May 20.

A note of caution though, as quick as improvement has happened – drought can return. As we move head first into the warmest months of the year, long term outlooks from NOAA indicate that Colorado is more likely than not to be warmer and drier than average through the summer months. This isn’t good for a couple reasons:

1) The continuing drought on the western slope
2) July and August being the wettest months of the year on average because of the monsoon

Keep in mind that wildfire season never ends in Colorado, but even with a wet first half of the year locally, it is likely to be an active summer of wildfires, especially in the mountains and on the western slope.

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