Meteorologist says drought still possible despite latest storms
BOULDER ” Despite a series of snow storms that rescued ski areas in Colorado just before the holidays and built up the below-average snowpack, experimental forecaster Klaus Wolter says there still is a possibility of drought next year.
Wolter, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said cold and unsettled weather will continue into January and that ski areas and other water users should not expect this bounty of snow to continue into spring.
“Two early December storms in particular brought exceptional moisture from Arizona into southwestern Colorado, turning a near-record low snowpack around to well-above average conditions. The northern mountains of Colorado and Utah have not fared quite as well, despite repeated, but minor storms,” he said.
As of Saturday, all but three of Colorado’s eight river basins were above 100 percent of the 30-year average. One of those below 100 percent, however, was the South Platte, which supplies water to the populous Front Range and farmers. But it has risen from 58 percent on Dec. 1 to 89 percent. Two river basins that are major suppliers to downstream states, the Upper Colorado and Rio Grande, were at 102 and 147 percent respectively.
“My experimental forecast guidance for the late winter season (January-March 2008) continues to show a pervasive tendency for dry conditions over the full domain. Half of Colorado, and most of Arizona and New Mexico appear most likely to experience a dry season, raising the specter of renewed drought in currently drought-free regions,” said Wolter.
He added that “this pessimistic outlook is actually more severe than the more neutral or even wet La Nina impacts that are more typical for such winters. A first glimpse at the moisture prospects for spring is surprisingly optimistic for New Mexico and southwest Colorado, but should not be taken at face value, due to lack of verifiable skill this far out, and due to typically lingering La Nina dryness.”
The National Weather Service, which is also part of NOAA, only forecasts for two weeks at a time. The service’s latest Colorado forecast calls for above average temperature and below average precipitin for Dec. 30 through Jan. 5.
Snowpack provides 80 percent of the state’s surface waters. The mountains serve as a natural reservoir and water suppliers and agriculture count on the snow to melt in the spring and early summer and deliver water.
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