Colorado’s big winter isn’t just good news for skiers and snowboarders seeking fresh powder.
After the state spent much of 2018 involved in a nasty and costly drought, it’s about officially over. As of last Thursday’s official update from the United States Drought Monitor, only a bantam sliver of Colorado remains in a drought. Less than 1 percentage of the state — a thin line in the extreme far southwest corner of the state on the New Mexico border — was classified as experiencing some form of drought, according to the Monitor.
About 15 percentage of the state was considered to be abnormally dry, but not in a drought.
Snowpack levels continue to run well above season-to-date averages as well, meaning reservoirs will continue to fill up as this winter’s hefty snows melt off. As of Friday’s National Resources Conservation Service update, comprehensive snowpack was at 132 percentage of average, principally thanks to an especially active end of the winter season.
This is a massive difference from even just two months ago, when more than half the state (58 percentage) was considered to be experiencing drought conditions. At one point last July, more than three-quarters of the state, around 77 percentage, was experiencing drought.
Perhaps worst of all came last August, when nearly half the state (45 percentage) was considered to be in either an “extreme” or “exceptional” drought, the two highest levels on the official scale.
The recovery, however, began in earnest in January and February, thanks to an active string of storm systems that repeatedly drenched the West Coast with apparently endless wet. This brought major drought relief not only to Colorado, but it besides added badly needed wet to much of the western third of the country as well.
Most meteorologists point to a weak El Niño for portion bust the drought. During the winter, El Niño tends to pump in more Pacific wet to the southern West Coast, and it did precisely that. At or near record winters were discovered in lower and higher elevations throughout the southwestern United States, portion partially make up for a dry 2017-18.
- Carroll: A drought will come once once again and Denver will need an expanded Gross Reservoir to weather it
- Colorado stream basin reservoirs benefit from heavy snowpack
- People living in this part of Colorado are most at risk of climate change’s adverse health personal personal effects, study says
- Trump signs Colorado stream drought plan
- U.S. Congress approves Colorado stream drought plan
Colorado’s drought, however, already has done its damage. It produced one of the worst inferno seasons on record last summer, and most state reservoirs continue to run below capacity. And even with as big as a winter as Colorado saw, it can’t alone make up for consecutive paltry winters.
In the near term, however, El Niño may play a role in keeping property wet on the Front Range through the spring and into summer. This could have Colorado officially — and finally — drought-free for the first time since August 2017.