100% of Colorado is under official drought classification

By: - August 6, 2020 12:28 pm

(Batuhan Toker/Getty Images Plus)

For the first time since 2013, the entire state of Colorado is experiencing drought conditions, according to the weekly update of the U.S. Drought Monitor — and state climatologists don’t expect those conditions to improve any time soon.

Despite some relief in the form of monsoon rains in southwest Colorado, more than a quarter of the state remains under an “extreme” drought classification, with 85% suffering at least “moderate” drought and the remainder considered “abnormally dry,” according to Drought Monitor Data. Climatologists say unusually high temperatures across much of the western United States are to blame for the worsening conditions.

“Well above normal and record-setting temperatures continued in the region, with many areas 2-4 degrees or more above normal for the week,” Brian Fuchs, a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center, wrote in the service’s update for the week of Aug. 4. “Much of the region was dry for the week with only some spotty precipitation in places.”

Colorado farmers and ranchers have struggled with the return of drought conditions this summer, especially in the southern portions of the state. A year ago, Colorado was officially drought-free for the first time in the Drought Monitor’s 20-year history, and healthy winter snowpack raised hopes that relatively wet conditions would continue.

But a decades-long drying trend driven by climate change — a “hot drought,” in the words of some hydrologists — has gripped the state once again, with hot, dry spring weather and long-term deficits in soil moisture causing high evaporation rates and disappointing runoff in most of the state’s river basins.

Drought conditions have persisted in Colorado since 2000.

Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center say it’s unlikely that there’s much relief on the horizon for Coloradans affected by drought. The agency’s short-term and long-term outlooks both project higher-than-average temperatures and drier-than-average conditions across most of Colorado in the coming weeks and months.

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Chase Woodruff
Chase Woodruff

Reporter Chase Woodruff covers the environment, the economy and other stories for Colorado Newsline.