Drought/snowpack: ‘I think we’re reliving the ’50s, bottom line’ — Brian Bledsoe #codrought #cowx

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From the Montrose Daily Press (Katharhynn Heidelberg):

If recent heavy rains and snowy mornings have people thinking this year’s water picture might be improving, they should think again.

The parched region is a long way from turning the corner, according to projections for the Aspinall Unit, which includes Blue Mesa and several other reservoirs in the Upper Gunnison Basin.

“We’re about halfway through our snow accumulation season, so things could get better, but right now, the Gunnison River Basin is about 62 percent of average for snowpack,” said Erik Knight, hydrologist for the Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the Aspinall [Unit].

From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

“I think we’re reliving the ’50s, bottom line,” Bledsoe said Friday morning at the annual meeting of the Colorado Water Congress. Bledsoe studies the famous El Niño and La Niña ocean currents. But he also looks at other, less well-known cycles, including long-term temperature cycles in the oceans.

In the 1950s, water in the Pacific Ocean was colder than normal, but it was warmer than usual in the Atlantic. That combination caused a drought in Colorado that was just as bad as the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. The ocean currents slipped back into their 1950s pattern in the last five years, Bledsoe said. The cycles can last a decade or more, meaning bad news for farmers, ranchers, skiers and forest residents. “Drought feeds on drought. The longer it goes, the harder it is to break,” Bledsoe said…

Nolan Doesken, Colorado’s state climatologist, said the summer of 2012 was the hottest on record in Colorado. And it was the fifth-driest winter since record-keeping began more than 100 years ago. Despite recent storms in the San Juan Mountains, this winter hasn’t been much better.

“We’ve had a wimpy winter so far,” Doesken said. “The past week has been a good week for Colorado precipitation.”

However, the next week’s forecast shows dryness returning to much of the state.

Reservoir levels are higher than they were in 2002 – the driest year since Coloradans started keeping track of moisture – but the state is entering 2013 with reservoirs that were depleted last year. “You don’t want to start a year at this level if you’re about to head into another drought,” Doesken said.

From the Nation Weather Service Pueblo Office:

A large storm system will move into the central Rockies next weekend. Model forecasts are currently indicating the potential for 3 different storm tracks. If track 1 occurs, some snow is likely over southern Colorado. If track 3 occurs, there could be little or no snow over southern Colorado. If track 2 occurs, there could be a widespread, significant snowstorm over southern Colorado. Unfortunately, with forecast models indicating so many possible storm tracks, it is difficult to have confidence in any one of the forecasts at this time. Stay tuned to your National Weather Service over the next few days. A clearer picture of what to expect should emerge as we approach the weekend.

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