After a summer of high temperatures and a wet monsoon season, Coloradans can expect a dry fall.
As of Thursday, 84% of Colorado is experiencing dry conditions and over 45% of the state is in some form of drought, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map. Northeastern Colorado is especially dry, with most counties experiencing severe to exceptional levels of drought.
Despite a couple of wet weeks forecast ahead, National Centers for Environmental Information meteorologist Richard Heim, who authored this week’s map, said the fall months are predicted to be warmer and drier than normal in Colorado.
The southwestern U.S. is grappling with its driest 22-year period on record in the past 1,200 years, conditions that are unlikely to improve. Most of Colorado has experienced below-normal precipitation over the past three to five years, Heim said. Western Colorado has been in an extended drought period for at least the past five years.
Monsoon rainfall that hit the state in late summer granted short-term relief to some parts of Colorado, Heim said, but is not enough to replenish the moisture deficits that have accumulated over many years of drought. Summer monsoon rains had little effect on the state’s generally low groundwater levels, which pose a risk to irrigation-dependent agriculture.
“Pray for heavy mountain snowpack this winter,” Heim said.
There is no guarantee for any snow this fall, Colorado Climate Center climatologist Peter Goble said. The Front Range typically starts seeing snow at the end of October or beginning of November, he said. While the two-week forecast shows no sign of snow in the lower elevations, Goble said that could change quickly in mid-October.
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The National Weather Service predicts a third La Niña weather pattern year in a row, which Goble said is good for the prospects of building snowpack in the northern Rockies in the early winter months. Drier conditions are predicted for other mountainous parts of the state, including southern Colorado and areas east of the Continental Divide.
Precipitation in the fall and winter will influence what drought conditions look like next spring.
“Unless we do receive meaningful moisture between now and then,” Goble said, “you’re going to see the impacts rear their ugly head again come the next season.”