Climate: U.S. West very dry in February

Very dry across the West in February 2016.
Very dry across the West in February 2016.

Where’s El Niño?

Staff Report

El Niño didn’t exactly go gangbusters in southwest Colorado last month, where the key river basins received only about 35 percent of average February precipitation. Statewide mountain precipitation was only slightly better, at 56 percent of normal.

“February in the mountains of Colorado is typically a slightly drier month than compared to say, April. But a dry February like this could have big ramifications should April and May not pan out” said Brian Domonkos, Snow Survey Supervisor with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Snowpack across the West is near- to below average, and far below average in the Southwest.

Even though precipitation was well below average, Colorado’s statewide snowpack is still hovering near normal, at 99 percent of average. That’s down 13 percent from the Feb. 1 reading, but still enough to keep reservoirs full and drought at bay if snowfall is near normal the next few months.

The Arkansas and South Platte basins are at 102 percent of average, while the Southwest River basins ( San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan) are at 97 percent, according to the latest update from the NRCS.

Reservoir storage has been very consistent since the beginning of the water year, with levels far better than the deficits that were experienced during the winters of 2013 and 2014.

The majority of streamflow forecasts in the state fall between 75 and 105 percent of normal, down from last month. With the two most significant precipitation months yet to come, spring and summer runoff are heavily dependent on March and April weather systems.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is still projecting a better than average chance for a wet spring in the Southwest, based in part on the lingering impacts of El Niño.

Hopes are high for a wet spring in the southwestern U.S.



2 thoughts on “Climate: U.S. West very dry in February

  1. Reblogged this on GarryRogers Nature Conservation and commented:
    The Febuary to early March map certainly reflects our experience here in central Arizona. The rain that just hit California didn’t do much here. The deer are staying put, and if this continues, more will be arriving this summer. High hopes for March.

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