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Expert says current drought is one of Colorado's worst

Expert says current drought is one of Colorado's worst

The current drought has been persistent, and is continuing to make headlines in Colorado.

Nolan Doesken, state climatologist with Colorado State University, said the drought began in the fall of 2011.

"It's right in there with some of Colorado's worst droughts you have to give it credit for being bad.  People aren't just whining," said Doesken.

Doesken said with respect to the wind, lack of rain, humidity levels, temperature and duration, Colorado has not seen a drought of this magnitude since the 1950s.

The drought has hit ranchers and farmers especially hard, but everyone who uses water should consider themselves affected by the drought. 

The recent snowstorms have also helped to provide some relief.  However, in order to eliminate the drought, Doesken said the state needs to see average monthly rainfall plus an additional 6 to 12 inches of water.  In Colorado Springs, that's equivalent to 39 to near 70,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.  In Pueblo, that's equivalent of from 10 to near 17,000 pools. 

Doesken said, it is not ideal to get this kind of relief all at once, but added that many of Colorado's past droughts have ended abruptly because of major flooding.

"At this time of year, going into summer, knowing that much of this region of the state's precipitation falls in the form of intense summer showers, be on the lookout.  This could be a flood year right in the middle of a drought," said Doesken.

Drought forecasts do not look favorable for relief in the near future, but Doesken said due to the multiple factors that influence droughts, these long-term forecasts are not very reliable.

"Quite honestly, you get to the middle of the summer and things end up being random convection and end up being the monsoon circulation, which is very difficult to anticipate in advance.  So, there's a lot of uncertainty here," said Doesken.

Therefore, in Colorado, it is better to be optimistic, while remaining realistic.  Continue to conserve, and hope for consistent rain.

"Eventually we'll get out of the drought.  It's just a question of, will it be this summer?  Will it be next?  Will it be four years from now?  We all hope it's soon," said Doesken.

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