Progress slows on Colorado drought as forecast dries out

Weather

We’ve made huge progress in tackling our drought in Colorado since the beginning of 2021. Thanks to frequent and moisture rich rain and snow events our state has seen a our coverage of Extreme Drought or higher drop from 76.17% of the state on Dec. 29, 2020 to only 31.23% as of Mar. 30, 2021. There’s still a lot of room for improvement, but that is a huge change!

Swipe to see the levels of drought change between Dec. 29, 2020 to Mar 30, 2021.
The Drought Monitor key ranging from Abnormally Dry to Exceptional Drought. “Abnormally Dry” conditions are actually still drought free, but at risk of entering into Moderate Drought.

These frequent rain and snow events have been key in steadily and quickly decreasing our levels of drought and we’ve stressed that these need to stay consistent for improvement to continue. In the last week, since Mar. 23, our moisture events have been less impactful and our progress on the Drought Monitor as slowed.

Comparing the 23rd to the most recent update valid on Mar. 30th, you can see very little difference.

Mar. 23 to Mar. 30 drought conditions.

Keep in mind, our snowiest months are in the Spring. So frequent and wet snows are normal this time of year. However, the amount of rain and snow that Southern Colorado saw from February to March was well above average and is not necessarily indicative of what the rest of the season or early summer will bring. While we have transitioned out of La Nina, which brought us a very dry winter and worsened our drought, we are not in a overly moist pattern now. We’re in a “neutral phase” which does not favor wetter or drier than normal conditions over the long term. That means that improvement to our drought will likely continue, but at a much slower pace than the start of the year.

Unfortunately, the drier pattern that is settling in this week will likely stick around for a while. This does not mean we won’t see any rain or snow, remember this is still our snowiest time of year, but we will probably be seeing less than normal and slow improvements or stalled progress on the Drought Monitor.

The National Weather Service has released one and three month climate outlooks which suggest that Colorado will be staying in a drier pattern through April, May and June.

The April precipitation outlook shows a forecast on the lower end of the “Below Normal” scale, while the probability of Below Normal precipitation increases in the three month outlook, especially for the western slopes and S Colorado’s SW mountains and valleys. Drought is still a concern and will be for some time due to the high levels it climbed to this past fall and winter. Fire danger concerns will also rise as our forecast warms heading into the end of spring and beginning of summer. A couple of wet months do not eradicate a drought of this scale and that is important to remember as we head into our higher fire danger months.

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