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Regional Drought Early Warning System
March 28, 2017


Current U.S. Drought Monitor Depiction


Recommended Changes

Summary: March 28, 2017

While temperatures were once again much above average across the UCRB and eastern Colorado over the last week, the large-scale weather pattern has shifted in favor of wetter conditions. Rainfall totals over the last week exceeded 0.50" in the San Juans, the Upper Green Basin, and the Duchesne Basin. East of the divide, totals exceeded one inch across much of the Eastern Plains, and near the Raton Mesa. The notable areas currently in drought which remained dry are southeast Colorado, and northern Larimer and Weld Counties near the Cheyenne Ridge. 

Streamflows are much above average across the Upper Colorado River Basin, and, for the most part, above average in eastern Colorado. The above average streamflows are being heavily driven by early snowmelt. With the exception of the Yampa River Basin, which peaked at 90% of its seasonal median peak, snowpack is still above average across the basin. The healthy snowpack numbers leave reason to believe that streamflows should remain in the normal range once peak snowmelt season hits. Along with the increased streamflows, major reservoirs are beginning their seasonal recharge. 

Soil moisture is now much above average in the mid-to-high elevations of western Colorado, in the Wasatch Range, and in the Upper Green River Basin. This is also a direct result of early melt. Eastern Colorado soil moisture has improved over the past week, but deficits still exist, primarily due to the warm, dry second half of the 2016 growing season. 

The shift towards wetter conditions is expected to continue for at least a week, and there is above average likelihood of wet conditions persisting over the next two weeks. Widespread totals of greater than one half of an inch of moisture are expected across the UCRB and eastern Colorado. The Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range in southern Colorado may see as much as five inches of precipitation over the coming seven days. The southeast plains, which were drier than nearby areas last week, are expected to receive at least 1.50" of rainfall. These rains will be celebrated by ranchers and dry land farmers in southeast Colorado if the forecast pans out. 

Recommendations

UCRB: Status quo is recommended.

Eastern Colorado: The current U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) author has already proposed a one category improvement in Washington, Yuma, Kit Carson, Lincoln, and Elbert Counties as well as parts of Weld, Adams, Arapahoe, Douglas, Fremont, Pueblo, Huerfano, Las Animas, Otero, and Crowley Counties. These changes align well with the heaviest corridor of rainfall that hit southern and eastern Colorado last week. The Colorado Climate Center will endorse this USDM draft. 

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