Drought Persists in Colorado: Western Part of State’s Snowpack Drops to 61% of Median, Bringing Statewide Snowpack Down to 79%

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Credit: United States Department of Agriculture.

Colorado’s snowpack has been drying up in the past few weeks—quickly. The statewide snowpack, calculated as snow water equivalent, is at 79 percent of the to-date median. Part of this number is brought up by the South Platte River Basin (including Denver, Fort Collins, and Boulder) which sits at 100 percent of the to-date median snowpack. But it’s also brought down by the 61 percent to-date median snowpack of southwestern Colorado’s San Miguel, Dolores, Animas, and San Juan River Basins.

According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the rest of the state is also way below the to-date median. The United States Drought Monitor shows that as of April 20, 98.81 percent of the state is experiencing abnormally dry conditions or worse—which is an improvement from 100 percent earlier this year. However, that 98.81 percent compares to just 66.74 percent of the state experiencing abnormally dry conditions or worse at this same time last year.

Colorado drought statistics. | Credit: United States Drought Monitor

Data also shows that 32.13 percent of the state is at ‘extreme’ and ‘exceptional’ stages of drought—the two highest of four tiers of drought. This extreme level of drought is mostly occurring on the western edge of Colorado. An estimated 3,337,163 Colorado residents are living in drought areas. Because of these current levels of drought, Colorado is expected to have an intense fire season. Be sure to recreate responsibly in Colorado’s outdoors this year because, as the cliché Smokey Bear puts it, only you can prevent wildfires.

Colorado drought map. Data from April 20, 2021. | Credit: United States Drought Monitor. | Author: Richard Heim.

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