DENVER – The 14-week streak is over: Fueled by a dry couple months, drought conditions officially returned to Colorado this week, following more moist conditions in the spring and early summer.
A sliver of Montezuma and La Plata counties in the far southwestern corner of the state were under "moderate" drought conditions, or "D1," according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. About 36,000 people live in the drought area.
D1 is the lowest drought level, followed by severe, extreme and exceptional conditions. A larger area of southwest Colorado is what the drought monitor considers "abnormally dry" but not quite to the level of drought conditions. Areas of central Colorado and corners in the southeast and northwest part of the state are also abnormally dry. (See the map on the tweet below).
The state became 100% drought-free in late May, marking first time in nearly 20 years of monitoring that no drought conditions were in Colorado.
A late-melting snowpack also led to a surge in river flows and a boost to the state's reservoirs. (Colorado reservoirs were still at about 78% capacity at the end of July, up from 58% at that time last year).
The drought here in Colorado is part of a larger area of dry conditions across New Mexico, Arizona and parts of Utah, as some areas have experience one of their driest monsoon seasons on record.
We had 14 straight weeks of wonderful drought-free conditions in Colorado, but D1 (moderate drought) was introduced into the Four Corners this week. Although the winter and spring were very wet in that area, the monsoon rainfall has been sorely lacking. #cowx pic.twitter.com/loek39ps8O
— ColoClimateCenter (@ColoradoClimate) August 30, 2019
In Colorado, many areas are above normal precipitation levels for the year but have been below normal over the last two months, according to the Colorado Climate Center.
Denver, for example, is at 12.58 inches of rain for the year, about 1.25 inches above normal, according to the National Weather Service. In the short term, only a little more than a half-inch has fallen this month, down by more than an inch of normal.
In Cortez, the closest precipitation station to the drought area, rain levels this year are at 9.78 inches, about 1.40 inches above normal. But since June 1, only 1.30 inches have fallen, nearly two inches below normal.
The Climate Center highlighted one of these variations this week, pointing out the rain levels in Walsh, in southeast Colorado. After a good rain on July 2, the area was more than 10.3 inches above normal for the year. Since then, Walsh has been more than four inches drier than normal.
Walsh in southeast CO has seen some big precip variations this water year. On July 2, 2.53" of rain fell, bringing them 10.33" above normal for the water year and 3.1" above the previous wettest year! But the spigot turned off and they've been 4.2" drier than normal since. #cowx pic.twitter.com/PHDRdlIrwq
— ColoClimateCenter (@ColoradoClimate) August 27, 2019