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Drought update

by Carol Dunn
HUERFANO- The Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released its monthly drought update on November 20. In transmitting the report to Conservation Districts around the state, Cindy Lair, Director of the Colorado State Conservation Board, said, “It’s not the best news but it should help you plan.”
The report shows 10 consecutive months of below average precipitation in Colorado for the 2012 water year, which ended on September 30. November has continued on a below average trend; although a storm around mid-month brought moisture to the mountains. At this early stage in the snow accumulation season, snowpack is at 45% of average. November temperatures are above seasonal averages, and 2012 is the second warmest year on record since 1895.
The US Drought Monitor shows that all of Colorado is experiencing some level of drought, with 79% of the state in a severe to extreme drought and 13% of the state – on the eastern plains and the Arkansas River basin – experiencing exceptional drought. The southern portions of the state are drier than the northern half. Statewide precipitation is at 58% of average.
Many municipalities with voluntary and mandatory watering restrictions report they will keep these in place throughout the winter.
Statewide reservoir storage is at 66% of average and 37% of capacity. The highest storage levels are in the Yampa/White River Basin in northwest Colorado, at 96% of average, while the lowest storage in the state is the Rio Grande River basin (San Luis Valley) at 47% of average.
The Surface Water Supply Index shows stream flows in the Huerfano basin have improved, a finding that locals might question but may have been influenced by a few high water events. The central and southwest portions of the state have had the largest decline in stream flows and storage levels.
According to DNR, for the first time in nine years, neither El Niño or La Niña will influence weather patterns over winter. So forecasters are not saying when the current drought status will change. An experimental long-term forecast issued November 19 shows below-normal chances of moisture and above average temperatures from January through March throughout much of Colorado. The forecasts are based on cold North Pacific and warm North Atlantic ocean temperatures.