Could Drought Raise Ugly Head?

Published online: Mar 23, 2004
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It appears areas of the West could see another year of drought.

Weather experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service are saying point-blank they expect more drought this summer in some regions.

"There is neither an El Nino nor La Nina in place; therefore, we expect a typical level of springtime variabililty in temperature and precipitations to occur in many areas of the nation," said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

"Specifically, NOAA meteorologists predict an enhanced likelihood for below-normal temperatures in the northern Great Plans and above-normal temperatures in Alaska, the Southwest and parts of the South for April through June.

Above normal precipitation is likely in the far Northwest and below normal likely in Texas and parts of surrounding states.

They also point out that even though some mountain snowpacks were a little above average, dry soils from up to five dry years will absorb snowmelt runoff and reduce recharge of reservoirs, many of which are well below normal levels as a result of this multi-year drought.

Water experts from Wyoming to New Mexico say this will undoubtedly be a seventh straight year of drought. After a winter of a record blizzard that helped refill the states' reservoirs, the Rocky Mountain Front Range is unavoidably sinking back into drought.

Snowpack in the important South Platte Basin which supplies water to all of northeastern Colorado is just half of what normally accumulates by this time of year.

In southern Colorado the San Juan Basin is at normal levels but that is expected to change when downstream water users call for water. The Colorado and Arkansas basins are only at 15-20 percent of normal. With each passing dry day with very warm temperatures, they are falling further behind in snowpack melt and water.