Drought news: Winter looks dry #CODrought

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From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

Current water conditions

The water providers and experts at Tuesday’s Water Availability Task Force Meeting discussed the state’s current snowpack and reservoir levels, among other issues.

Snowpack across the state, as of Tuesday, was 52 percent of the historic average for Nov. 20. That’s an improvement from where the state ended its 2012 snow year. Snowpack for Colorado back on June 1 was only 2 percent of average — tying a record­low, set on June 1, 2002.

In the South Platte River basin, snowpack on Tuesday was at 53 percent of historic average. On June 1, snowpack in the South Platte basin was 3 percent of the historic average for that date.

The state’s lowest snowpack levels are in the Arkansas River basin, standing at 36 percent of average.

Statewide reservoir levels on Nov. 1 stood at 66 percent of the historic average for that date, and were filled to 37 percent of capacity. On Nov. 1, 2011, statewide reservoir levels were 103 percent of historic average.

In the South Platte basin, reservoir levels were at 73 percent of historic average and 44 percent filled to capacity. On Nov. 1, 2011, the basin’s reservoir levels were at 118 percent of average…

Climatologist Klaus Wolter opened his presentation Tuesday with, “Don’t kill the messenger,” and ended it by saying, “I hope I’m wrong.”

Needless to say, the weather forecast he provided between his opening and closing remarks isn’t the kind that water providers, farmers and ranchers want to hear.

Wolter, a research associate with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, told his audience that current weather patterns, combined with climate models and historical data, don’t bode well for Colorado receiving average snowfall amounts this winter.

Before and after Klaus’ presentation, the 25 water experts at the Water Availability Task Force Meeting, hosted by the Colorado Water Conservancy Board, all stressed how much snow is needed this winter to refill reservoirs that were depleted during this year’s drought.

In recent weeks, Klaus’ forecasts for this winter had been more optimistic.

But now, a potential El Niño pattern has “fallen apart,” he said Tuesday, and that, along with other factors, has tilted his predictions toward dryness for Colorado during January, February and March. Other states in the Southwest U.S., too, are expected to be drier than normal.

Klaus added there’s still the possibility of storms this winter dumping much more snow than expected — which has occurred in recent years in Colorado. Those “freak” occurrences are difficult for climatologists to predict, he added.

Klaus’ other glimmer of hope, he said, stems from a warm spot over the Pacific Ocean, west of the International Date Line, which, if pushed by westward winds, could eventually bring weather patterns to the region favorable for snow this winter.

However, those needed bursts of wind are typically south of the equator by this time of the year, he noted.

On more than one occasion during his presentation, Klaus talked about the uniqueness of current weather patterns, but also pointed out they share similarities with those that led up to the winters of 1953­54 and 2003­04 — neither of which brought good water years to Colorado.

In recent weeks, forecasters, including state climatologist Nolan Doesken in Fort Collins, had already predicted that this winter’s temperatures would be above­average.

Like the water experts who attended Tuesday’s meeting, local water providers and farmers and ranchers have stressed the need for snow this winter. Because 2012 brought record heat and record­ low precipitation, ag producers and residents depended heavily on stored water from reservoirs to grow their crops and irrigate their lawns.

That water usage dropped many reservoirs to historically low water levels.

Coming into 2012, reservoirs in the region had plenty of water to offer, thanks to record snowfall in the winter and spring of 2011.

But now, another dry winter would spell trouble for the next growing season, everyone says.

Water experts have said the region doesn’t need record snowfall like that of 2011 to meet the needs of next year’s growing season — just average snowfall this winter would do the trick.

However, Klaus’ updated weather forecast puts into question whether the region will get even that.

From the The La Junta Tribune-Democrat:

Do you manage drought? Or is it managing you?

Ranchers: What would you give to know 30, 40 or 60 days ahead of time that your livestock herd was going to run out of grass?

Would you give 1½ days of your time?

Would you like to learn a totally unique approach to drought management that has never been available before?

Then this workshop is for YOU! Mark your calendar for Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 11 and 12, and plan to attend a unique and comprehensive Managing Drought Workshop series in Wray, Colo.

This workshop series begins with a session Tuesday afternoon Dec. 11 and a separate session Tuesday evening. A final session on Wednesday, Dec. 12 will wrap up the series. Anyone may attend any part or all of the workshop sections.

There is no registration fee to attend the workshop series but preregistration by Dec. 5 is required to insure your meal.

Meet Matt Stockton on Tuesday afternoon at 2 p.m. at the Wray City Hall. Registration will begin at 1:30. Matt is an economist with UNL who has a high energy entertaining style that will make this subject understandable and enjoyable. He will lead us through the thought processes of drought and the value of understanding the impact of the different choices on the ranch business using a tool known as the “Calf Cost Cow-Q-Lator”.

One of the hardest things to do is to know that a drought is happening. This is where the Cow-Calf Cost Cow-Q-Lator can be helpful. This Excel spreadsheet helps you look at your expected profit (or loss) given current and expected conditions. Variables in this tool include but are not limited to, hay and range cost, amount of feed fed, calf weaning size, and price. The spreadsheet results give the profit estimates ranging over 500 possible outcomes given producer supplied numbers. Attendees will go through an example using this worksheet as a group. This example will be reflective of attendees’ local conditions and prices. This tool is available on the Web as a free download.

After a provided dinner, the workshop series will continue at 6:30 at the USDA Service Center with an introduction to various Web resources led by Pat Reece. Pat is a highly sought after speaker who was a research scientist and range specialist for many years with the University of Nebraska Panhandle Research and Extension Center. Pat will explain why ranchers should know how to use website resources to gain information vital to making informed drought plan decisions. Attendees will have hands-on opportunity with each of the websites so they can go home and use them. Computers will be available, or you may bring your own WiFi ready laptop. The Service Center is located near the Sandhiller Motel just north of the railroad tracks off of Highway 385.

On Wednesday, we will meet again at the Wray City Hall with registration, coffee and rolls at 8:30. The workshop will begin at 9 a.m. and close at 3:30 p.m. Pat Reese will teach attendees about drought indicators, plant drought response, and drought planning.

Attendees will learn how to answer critical questions including:
– How much moisture do we need?
– How do I decide how many animals I can run next summer?
– When can I decide?

Wednesday’s workshop will empower attendees to take drought “by the horns” by making a drought plan for their ranch.

Plan to attend this workshop series whether you own rangeland and cattle, you are a landlord who leases range, or you are leasing the range for your cattle operation. The youth are particularly invited to attend.

For more information or to register, go to the Yuma County Conservation District website at http://www.ycconservation.com or email Julie.Elliott@co.usda.gov. If you prefer to talk to a live person, call (970) 332-3173, ext. 3 between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. MST. You may also call anytime to leave a message and receive a return phone call.

Pre-registration by Dec. 5 is required to insure an accurate count for meals.

This workshop series is sponsored by the Yuma County Conservation District and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

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