If you haven’t heard or read by now, I’m sorry to be the first to let you know: as of early 2011, eastern Colorado is experiencing a severe drought. The mountains and the western slope are doing just fine, thanks to a strong La Nina that has brought above-average precipitation to western Colorado all winter. The eastern plains, however, have received scant precipitation dating back to just after July 4th, 2010. the precipitation that has fallen in the Denver metro area, for example, since that time has been largely confined to singular events followed by weeks of no precipitation. Coyote Gulch has a piece on what this means for the Arkansas Valley farmers.
For the record, as dry as it has been over eastern Colorado for the past 9+ months, Oklahoma and Texas are doing relatively worse. Extreme drought conditions exist over a large part of southern Oklahoma and most of Texas. A portion of Texas near Houston is experiencing Exceptional drought conditions. The same La Nina that has brought near-record snowpack to the Sierra Nevadas and saturated the Pacific Northwest has left the southern U.S. high and dry. That’s not expected to change in the next 3 months as the La Nina slowly weakens and the tropical Pacific returns to neutral conditions.
In the long term, these kinds of events are only going to become more likely and more severe, regardless of the specific strength of a particular La Nina or other short-term climate oscillation. I’m not saying this drought will continue for years to come, but as a result of our climate forcing, the drought dice are being loaded more and more. We will learn what it’s like to hit a 13 or 14 on 2 six-sided die that we’re painting with extra numbers this century. Mankind has never had to deal with the kind of climate extremes that will occur.
The effects of this drought have yet to really be felt. Once they do, we should all ask ourselves how prepared we are to face much more severe droughts in the future.
Cross-posted at SquareState.