DENVER (KDVR) — Apart from the heated politics, global pandemic, violent protests and historic wildfires, 2020 also gave Colorado one of its driest years of the last two decades.
KDVR Pinpoint Weather meteorologist Matt Makens said the drought was notable for its severity as much as its length.
“Drought indices also indicate the 2020 drought to be one of the harshest of the modern period,” said Makens. “One such drought tool, the Palmer Drought Severity Index, indicates November 2020 as the 38th worst month since 1895 (data is through November 2020) – that equates to being within the top 3% of worst drought months on record.”
Colorado experienced more days of drought in 2020 than any of the past 20 years except 2002, a notorious drought year that produced what were previously the state’s largest wildfires until 2020.
One hundred percent of Coloradans lived in some kind of drought throughout the year, and the state charted more days in exceptional drought than any years prior.
Weather patterns, our meteorologist said, rarely produce such hot and dry conditions so quickly.
“What, perhaps, makes the drought of 2020 unique is the rapid expansion of drought conditions in June during a period of ‘flash drought,'” said Makens. “That ‘flash drought’ was a period of extremely rare evaporative stress on vegetation due to strong wind events and unusually hot temperatures. ‘Flash droughts’ need further study to better drought forecasting, but the rapid growth of drought in June 2020 was quite noteworthy and special to the drought phase we are in currently.”
The drought has not diminished as the new year has turned.
As of the new year’s first day, more than three-fourths of the state is in extreme drought, the second-highest rating beneath exceptional drought.
“Time will tell if this current drought rivals those longest on record as we have a long way to go before conditions improve,” Makens said. “Being in a La Nina pattern following years of no ‘monsoon season’ in July and August have left us in the current track toward one of the most significant drought periods in our lifetime.”