A Dry Autumn Has Parts Of The West Bracing For Drought

Nov 26, 2019
Originally published on December 3, 2019 12:52 pm

It’s been one of the driest starts to the water year across parts of the Mountain West, but that doesn’t mean there’s cause for alarm just yet.

The water year begins October 1, and measures the total amount of precipitation over 12 months. 2019 is off to one of the driest starts on record in areas throughout our region, according to Dan McEvoy, a climatologist with the Western Regional Climate Center.

“It’s not that uncommon to have a dry October, but then as we get further towards the end of November, it gets much more uncommon to have these very low precipitation totals,” McEvoy said.

According to the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes, much of our region has about a 30% chance of seeing normal precipitation levels this water year. That primarily affects Nevada, Utah and Colorado.

McEvoy says recent winter storms throughout the region will help those odds improve when new numbers are released in December.

“There were some decent storms in October that kind of hit eastern Colorado, but the headwaters of the Colorado River Basin into southwest Colorado [has] still been quite dry,” McEvoy said. “I think in general this dryness has spanned much of the West for the beginning of the water year.”

But this slow start isn’t necessarily a sign of things to come. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the areas within our region most impacted by drought have a higher probability of seeing above average precipitation in early December. And it predicts minimal drought impacts for most of the region, with the exception of southeastern Colorado.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

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