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Did you know that droughts are the most costly natural disasters affecting the U.S.?
With its semiarid conditions, drought is a natural part of the Colorado climate, and no portion of the State is immune from drought conditions. Drought tends to be a complex and a gradual phenomenon. It occurs when a normal amount of moisture is unavailable to satisfy an area’s usual water consumption. The effects of drought vary based on where in the State it occurs, when it happens, and how long the drought persists. Although they can be characterized as emergencies, they differ from most natural disasters, such as floods or wildfires, because they typically occur slowly over a multi-year period. It is often not obvious or easy to quantify when a drought begins and ends.
Drought is one of the few hazards with the potential to directly or indirectly impact the entire population of Colorado. This can be from water restrictions, higher water and food prices, reduced air or water quality, or restricted access to recreational areas. For instance, droughts that occur in the mountainous regions of Colorado during winter months may impact the ski and tourism industry. Additionally, the lack of winter snowfall in the mountains can eventually lead to agricultural impacts on the eastern plains due to decreased water access.
Explore the information below to learn more about this “creeping phenomenon!" VIDEO: National Geographic: With Drought Looming, Colorado River Basin Needs Solutions.
References, Resources and More Information:
Colorado has experienced widespread, severe drought since the late 1800s. As of 2013, the drought of 2002 is considered the worst single year drought on record in Colorado‘s history. Statewide snowpack was at or near all-time lows. What made 2002 so unusual was that the entire state was dry at the same time. These conditions were rated exceptional by the U.S. Drought Monitor and were the most severe drought conditions experienced in the region since the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. During 2011-2013, some regions throughout southeastern Colorado have experienced persistent severe to exceptional drought conditions that are comparable to conditions seen during both the 2002 drought and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
Text photo courtesy of the NOAA Photo Library