Colorado weather: Drought grows, summer fire danger increasing

Colorado’s drought is continuing to expand and intensify, based on data from Thursday’s national drought monitor report.

According to the United States Drought Monitor, the official government drought monitor directly associated with the National Weather Service, nearly 80% of Colorado is abnormally dry, and more than 60% of the state is officially considered to be in a drought.

All of those numbers represent a slight increase from the week prior, and a considerable increase from this time last year, when virtually all of Colorado was drought-free.

Perhaps most ominously, the level of “extreme” drought is also growing across southern Colorado. About 15% of Colorado, mainly across the southern third of the state, is now considered to be in an extreme drought by the drought monitor.

Subpar full winter snowpack coupled with an unusually fast snowmelt are combining to dry Colorado, particularly over the southern half of the state. On a longer term basis, an exceptionally dry monsoon season last summer also left much of southern Colorado moisture-starved.

Those factors have not only increased drought conditions, but they’ve also begun to considerably dry out soil moisture. The San Juan mountains in southwestern Colorado are especially dry, based on data from the Inter-Canyon Fire Protection District.

That could set the stage for increased fire activity later this spring and summer. While snowpack was generally healthy over the northern half of Colorado, southern Colorado’s lack of snowpack and its recent rapid decline will likely only continue to further dry soils there.

After showers and storms on Thursday and Friday, next week is trending hotter and drier. Temperatures along the Front Range could approach 90 degrees early next week, meaning the recent drought and drier soils could continue to expand.

May is typically one of the wetter months of the year in Colorado. So far this month, though, it’s trended a bit drier than average, and that’s perhaps especially worrisome with drought conditions to build across the state.

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