Third-year La Niña could spell trouble for state, officials warn in latest drought outlook
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — A drought outlook for Colorado issued March 28 offered a gloomy outlook for the spring and summer unless weather conditions turn around drastically in the next few weeks.
Even worse, state water experts said there’s still a greater than 40 percent chance that La Niña could stretch into a third year. Three-year La Niñas are associated with some of the driest periods on record, according to the update issues by the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.
The best chance for increased moisture might derive from a sudden transition to El Niño, but there is only a 20 percent chance that this will occur, according to the update.
Citing warm and dry conditions statewide in March, state water experts said drought conditions in the northwestern corner of the state could be raised to the severe level within the next few weeks. The central and northern mountains are under moderate drought conditions, while severe drought, conditions persist over much of the southeast and south-central portions of the state.
Typically by this time of year, Colorado has reached 92 percent of its average peak water equivalent for the season, but this year, the snow-water equivalent is only at about 67 percent of its peak and about 70 percent of average statewide.
Statewide, reservoir storage is 107 percent of average. The Rio Grande and the Arkansas River basins continue to be the regions with the lowest reservoir storage levels in the state at 69 percent and 98 percent of average, respectively.
The long-term seasonal forecast for late spring (April-June) shows a tilt towards dryness covering much of the state, with the exception of the eastern plains, whch lean toward near-normal moisture.