Drought news: ‘Don’t shoot the messenger…I hope I’m wrong’ — Klaus Wolter #CODrought

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Diverters present at yesterdays CWCB Water Availability Task Force heard a gloomy forecast from Klaus Wolter. He mentioned that the conditions for this year (ENSO-Neutral after a double-dip La Niña) had only one adjunct in the past 100 years, 1953, “and we all know what the snowpack did that year.” In the business we know that year as part of the 50s drought, a multiple year event that had water utilities and irrigators reeling.

Here’s a report from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. Here’s an excerpt:

Even after hearing a gloomy outlook on winter precipitation, big municipal utilities said they’re in a wait-and-see mode — and hoping for snow. But there’s no reason to expect a particularly snowy pattern. In fact, all indications are that precipitation may end up below average once again, barring an some anomalous storm event this winter.

“Don’t shoot the messenger,” said meteorologist Klaus Wolter, with NOAA’s Earth Systems Research Laboratory in Boulder. “Most of the information I have is dry. I hope I’m wrong,” Wolter said, offering a seasonal outlook for a state water availability task force.

Wolter said that, based on current atmospheric and ocean patterns, he’s fairly confident of his dry winter outlook, with history suggesting a “pretty high” forecast skill for the January to March period. With El Niño no longer in the picture, the key ingredients in Wolter’s outlook are colder than average water in the North Pacific (negative PDO) and warmer than average water in the northeastern Atlantic. In the past, that combination has spelled trouble for Colorado, Wolter said.

Relief could come from an anomalous storm — a wet river of air from the Pacific that sometimes works its way inland to Colorado, Wolter said, adding that the lack of early season snow is particularly worrisome from a water supply standpoint.

Snow in the late fall and early winter sets up a solid base to the snowpack that melts slowly in the spring and contributes disproportionately to spring runoff…

Temperatures the last couple of months have been near average, which means Colorado might not quite break the all-time average high annual temperature, set in the Dust Bowl year of 1934. But average temperatures have again been edging upward in November, said state climatologist Nolan Doesken, adding that 2012 will almost certainly end up as one of the three warmest years on record.

I live-tweeted the meeting here.

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