Drought expected to persist; water supply outlook grim
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Temperatures will begin to moderate across the Colorado high country the next few days, with highs climbing back to near seasonal norms, which is only in the lower 30s, but that should feel downright balmy after enduring an Arctic air mass the past few days.
The nicest weather will be up on the mountain slopes, because warmer air aloft will trap cold air on the valley floors, and with no incoming weather systems to stir up the atmosphere, those inversions are likely to persist for the foreseeable future. That also means there’s no snow in the forecast for the next 10 days unless there’s a dramatic shift in the jet stream, which will stay far to the north for the next week at least.
And that’s bad news for the state’s water managers, who, while they’ll never admit it, must be sweating bullets by now. As of Jan. 14, the statewide snowpack was almost 40 percent below average, with some of the lowest readings in Denver’s critical South Platte Basin, as well the Arkansas Basin, which provides much of the water for agriculture in the southeastern plains.
This year’s snowpack is even lagging behind last winter’s scant totals, so Colorado is likely end up behind the eight ball even if February and March deliver average moisture. But the long-term outlook isn’t exactly promising, with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center calling for better than average chances of continued dry conditions and above average temperatures through late winter.
Drought conditions remain across much of Colorado, especially given that temperatures ran much higher than average the past three months, in some areas by as much as 10 degrees.
In the Pacific, any signs of El Niño have faded away, leaving neutral conditions and overall cooler than average sea surface temperatures due to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.
The only bright side to the snow and water picture is that the snowpack remains within striking distance of average, should one or two exceptionally wet spring storms roll through the region — and that’s not out of the realm of reality.