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Colorado Drought Eases; Texas Drought Worsens

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With over 5″ of rain in some areas of Colorado during the month of May, drought conditions have eased, especially in northeastern Colorado.  That’s the good news, at least locally.  The bad news?  An increasing proportion of Texas is being classified as being in ‘Exceptional’ drought conditions.

As seen in the figures below, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor (via NOAA’s NCDC), 4 Colorado counties that were under ‘Severe’ drought a month ago are now not designated as being in drought.  And instead of being in severe drought, 8 additional CO counties are now only ‘Abnormally Dry’.  Some of those counties are found in the Denver metro area and include Adams, Broomfield, Boulder, Denver, Jefferson and Arapahoe.  Additionally, counties to the southeast of the Denver area are now only in ‘Moderate’ instead of ‘Severe’ drought.  Unfortunately, the southeastern portion of Colorado remains in at least ‘Severe’ drought, with at least some portion of 5 counties experiencing ‘Extreme’ drought while one county (Baca) is also running into ‘Exceptional’ drought conditions.

The following two figures show where more intense drought conditions have eased in the past couple of weeks.  Keep in mind that in order to achieve these drought condition reductions, 1/3 of our annual average precipitation had to fall in the month of May.  It is unlikely that similar above-average precipitation will occur in June.  Therefore, if less than average precipitation falls, we are likely to slide back into more intense drought conditions.

Figure 1 – Drought conditions for Colorado as of May 17, 2011 (2 weeks ago).

Figure 2 – Drought conditions for Colorado as of May 24, 2011 (1 week ago).

Finally, a word on Texas.  Instead of easing, the drought in Texas has intensified in strength and increased the areal coverage of the most intense drought condition.  Again, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, ‘Exceptional’ drought now afflicts a very significant portion of Texas.  Many Texas counties are now experiencing the worst drought in modern recorded history.  Crop losses are mounting and will likely top $1 Billion by the end of the year.  Thousands of fires have occurred across Texas, setting records for acreage burned by this calendar date in the year.

In a similar vein, widespread and intense drought is also affecting southern China.  A Chinese water expert has warned the drought is a “warning signal” of negative effects to come to China’s fragile water system.  35 million people are currently affected in 5 provinces.  Imagine what cascading effects will occur when that figure reaches 9 digits.

Cross-posted at SquareState.

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