WHICH YEARS HAS COLORADO BEEN DROUGHT FREE SINCE THE DROUGHT MONITOR BEGAN KEEPING RECORDS IN 2000?
A) 2015, 2019 B) 2014, 2015 C) 2019
Answer: C) 2019. The entire state of Colorado is considered to be 100 percent drought free for the first time since US Drought monitor began recording conditions in 2000.
Colorado snowpack lingered into mid-July this year. This is the latest Colorado’s snowpack has lingered since 2011.
You may remember seeing headlines touting snowpack levels as high as 750 percent of normal. However, when talking about snow in the mountains the snow water equivalent (SWE) is the key figure to measure. The SWE is the amount of water contained within the snowpack, or the depth of water that would result if all the snow was melted at once.
Cooler spring temperatures coupled with late snowfalls this year allowed the snowpack to last later into the summer than we typically see it, resulting in those triple digit percentage spikes.
This year, the SWE peaked in the north central mountains at 20.5 inches in April. Peak SWE this year was at least 200 percent of normal in all basins. The National Weather Service Denver/Boulder forecast office summarized the event in the below tweet:
This big winter did help eliminate Colorado’s drought. The entire state of Colorado is considered to be 100 percent drought free for the first time since US Drought monitor began recording conditions in 2000.
The winter and spring conditions also indicate a less severe wildfire season due to lower temperatures, higher precipitation and higher snowpack.
Weather conditions this spring extended the benefits of a good winter by being wet and cool. The increased snowpack paired with these conditions created an extended run off that allowed more water storage that helps protect against future drought. Statewide, reservoir storage contents are 105 percent of average as of the end of June, 2019.
Recreationally, the water conditions have delayed optimal fishing conditions and made the early rafting season dangerous. River flows along the Arkansas River are returning to their normal levels, making rafting conditions the most favorable they’ve been all season. Water levels are also well above historic averages for August, setting Colorado up for an extended rafting season.