April Drought Update: New Colorado State Web Site Provides Updated Drought and Weather-Related Information

The Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University has posted a new Web site at http://ccc.atmos.colostate.edu that provides access to current drought data and other weather-related information. In coordination with updates to the site, state climatologist and professor of atmospheric sciences Roger Pielke and research associate Nolan Doesken will issue mid-month Colorado drought advisories throughout the spring and summer.

"Throughout Colorado’s peak drought months, the Climate Center will provide a monthly advisory summarizing recent drought-related information and analyzing current weather conditions," said Pielke. "Anyone interested can go to the new site to access updated information regarding drought and associated vulnerabilities, as well as other Colorado-related climate and weather information."

The site includes a special drought section with links to monthly Colorado Drought Watch newsletters, Colorado Drought Task Force reports and meeting minutes, water conservation and drought planning information, daily updated snowpack data, water supply and precipitation reports, and streamflow forecasts. The site additionally offers a variety of information regarding all aspects of Colorado’s climate and weather.

Current site information highlights that March marked the seventh consecutive month of below-average snowfall and precipitation for the state. Colorado’s snowpack, as reported by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, is about 52 percent of average and only 60 percent what it was this time last year. April 1 marked Colorado’s lowest snowpack percentage for that date in 25 years.

"On average by this time of year, nearly most of the seasonal snow accumulation is completed, leaving little time for any substantial improvements to this year’s snowpack," said Pielke. "However, opportunities for beneficial spring rains and wet snows still exist, especially over northern and eastern portions of the state."

Precipitation totals for March were also well below average across most of the state, with southern Colorado reporting the lowest percentages. Almost no precipitation fell in March over the southeastern plains of Colorado. Totals of 53 percent to 56 percent of normal were measured in the Arkansas, Rio Grande and the combined San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel basins. Statewide, March totals were 65 percent of average.

Colorado’s water users can anticipate low streamflow this summer, according to the Colorado Drought Task Force. Forecasts include extremely below average streamflow (less than 50 percent of normal) along the San Juan, Rio Grande, Animas, Dolores, San Miguel, Gunnison, North Platte and upper South Platte river basins. A much below average streamflow (50 percent to 70 percent of normal) is forecast for the northern tributaries of the South Platte as well as the Arkansas, Yampa and Colorado river basins. Statewide, reservoir storage is 88 percent of average.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service lists all of Colorado in a moderate to severe drought stage. Fire danger across the state remains very high.

Drought-like conditions are already responsible for more than one-third of the state’s eastern plains winter wheat crop to be rated in poor condition and may be dangerous to Colorado’s summer crops. Livestock forage and irrigation water may also be threatened if current dry conditions continue. For more information about drought-related agricultural information, visit the Web at http://agnews.colostate.edu.

The Colorado Climate Center, housed in Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science, provides information and expertise on weather and climate patterns for the state of Colorado. Through its threefold program of climate monitoring, climate research and climate services, the Center provides Colorado climate information on the Web at http://ccc.atmos.colostate.edu and in Colorado Climate magazine, which is available through subscription.