Nearly half of Colorado has moved out of drought this year

Weather - Drought News Update Recap
Published Sunday, May 23, 2021
by Chris Sorensen

The latest report from the National Drought Mitigation Center shows that 48 percent of Colorado has shifted to drought-free or abnormally dry conditions since the start of the year. In January, all of the state was in some level of drought, with 77 percent in extreme or exceptional drought - the two worst categories.

Improvements - at least for eastern Colorado - began in mid-March as significant snow brought the first hints of relief. During May, thunderstorms have continued to bring rain to the state's eastern plains, resulting in drought-free conditions for most northeast counties, with much of the southeast moving to abnormally dry, a step below moderate drought.

The first drought-free area in Colorado since mid-2020 appeared in late April.

2021-05-23_map_colorado_drought_conditions_-_may_18_2021_-_national_drought_mitigation_center.png

MAP Colorado Drought Conditions - May 18, 2021 - National Drought Mitigation Center
Colorado Drought Conditions - May 18, 2021 - National Drought Mitigation Center

Over the past reporting period, between one-half and three inches of rain have fallen across the region, with storms producing higher amounts in localized areas.

Western Colorado continues to be dominated by extreme and exceptional drought. Portions of Moffat, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties have even seen conditions further degrade over the past few months, moving from extreme drought into exceptional.

Over the past week, nearly all of the eastern half of the state which had not already shifted to drought-free condition showed at least one category of improvement. Portions of El Paso, Elbert and Lincoln counties remained in moderate conditions, while southern Las Animas County saw severe drought shrink, though a strip remains along the border with New Mexico.

Southern Baca County saw two levels of category improvement, moving from severe to abnormally dry conditions. Much of central Huerfano, southern Pueblo and far north Las Animas counties also shifted by two categories, moving from moderate drought to drought-free. A remaining area of extreme drought in Las Animas County moved to severe conditions.

2021-05-23_map_drought_change_between_may_11_and_may_18_2021_-_ndmc.png

MAP Drought change between May 11 and May 18, 2021 - NDMC
Drought change between May 11 and May 18, 2021 - NDMC

Kiowa County has seen a particularly dramatic improvement since the start of the year. At that time, the bulk of the county was in extreme drought, with a persistent bullseye of exceptional conditions covering the central part of the county for months. With the most recent report, western and eastern Kiowa County are abnormally dry, with the central area in moderate drought, dropping from severe last week.

2021-05-15_map_colorado_drought_conditions_-_may_11_2021_-_national_drought_mitigation_center_0.png

MAP Colorado Drought Conditions - May 11, 2021 - National Drought Mitigation Center
Colorado Drought Conditions - May 11, 2021 - National Drought Mitigation Center

Overall, 23 percent of the state is drought-free, up from 13 percent last week, with an additional 25 percent in abnormally dry conditions, up from 12 percent in the previous week. Moderate drought covered 13 percent of Colorado, down from 32 percent, while severe drought dropped from 14 to 10 percent. Extreme and exceptional drought were unchanged at 13 and 16 percent, respectively.

Just over 900,000 people in Colorado are in drought-impacted areas, down from 4.6 million one month ago.

One year ago, 23 percent of the state was drought-free, with an additional 12 percent experiencing abnormally dry conditions. Moderate drought was impacting another 19 percent of the state, with 29 percent in severe drought and 18 percent in extreme conditions. Exceptional drought had not yet appeared in Colorado. Totals do not equal 100 due to rounding.

Early in the summer of 2019, the state was in an eight-week span of drought-free conditions - the first time Colorado had been clear from all levels of drought and abnormally dry conditions since records became available starting in 2000. In late May of that year, the state's snow water equivalent stood at 437 percent of normal following a series of storms that brought abundant moisture across Colorado's river basins.

As much as 77 percent of the state has fallen into the extreme and exceptional categories within the past year.

Colorado Drought by the Numbers

Week

Date

None

D0

D1

D2

D3

D4

Current

5/18/21

23

25

13

10

13

16

Last Week

5/11/21

13

12

32

14

13

16

3 Months Ago

2/16/21

0

0

10

31

41

18

Start of Calendar Year

12/29/20

0

0

6

18

49

28

Start of Water Year

9/29/20

0

1

10

36

50

3

One Year Ago

5/19/20

23

12

19

29

18

0

KiowaCountyPress.net may earn an affiliate commission if you purchase products or services through links in an article. Prices, when displayed, are accurate at the time of publication but may change over time. Commissions do not influence editorial independence.

The Kiowa County Press is an independent newspaper published in Eads, Kiowa County, Colorado, and to the world at KiowaCountyPress.net.


Fatal error: Declaration of RulesRuleUI::form(&$form, &$form_state, $options = Array) must be compatible with RulesActionContainerUI::form(&$form, &$form_state, $options = Array, $iterator = NULL) in /home/customer/www/kiowacountypress.net/public_html/sites/all/modules/rules/ui/ui.plugins.inc on line 0