March 2022 was the 3rd driest March in historical records, according to NOAA.
Precipitation over the past 30 days was well below average for the bulk of the western United States. Central Wyoming, eastern Colorado, and central New Mexico were the anomalies in the west, receiving above-average precipitation.
Here locally in southern Colorado, March brought several good rain and snow-producing storms, allowing for the surplus of moisture.
Despite the late start to snow this season, winter precipitation ended up near average for Colorado Springs and Pueblo. This allowed a decrease in drought conditions.
See the difference between December 2021 and April 2022 with the slider below:
Drought for the western US holds strong. NOAA classifies the current drought to be the "most extensive and intense drought in the 22-year history of the US Drought Monitor."
The culprit? La Nina.
Greg Heavener, the warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pueblo explains that La Nina winters tend to make storms divert too far north or south, missing the western US. Eastern Colorado can see several good storms during La Nina, which is what has transpired this year. The western slope of Colorado, however, has been very dry in the past 30 days and feeling the full effect of La Nina.
Upcoming spring snowmelt
Snowmelt this year is expected to be slightly below normal in accordance with the current snowpack, which is 91% of normal statewide as of April 7.
Colorado's luck seems to run out past the state lines. The Colorado River is the lifeline of the southwest US, supplying water to Lake Powell and Lake Mead. These lakes remain at concerning low levels as drought remains relentless.
Water from the Colorado River is shared based on guidelines from the Colorado River Compact.
According to an analysis from the National Weather Service Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, Blue Mesa Reservoir's current storage is 29%. Flow into the Blue Mesa will be 83% of normal during this year's run-off. Lake Powell is at 24% storage currently, and spring run-off will flow into Lake Powell at 64% of normal flow.
For ideal snowmelt, weather conditions will gradually warm into summer with calm conditions. Periods of unusual heat will increase snowmelt, and shorten the timeframe of water availability. Periods of dry windy weather can evaporate snowpack, putting that water vapor into the air and out of our watershed.
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