This year marks the first time that the city of Denver has seen no measurable snow by Dec. 1 since snowfall records began in 1882. The last snowfall was 224 days ago and days may continue to fly by without much snowfall if drought conditions in Colorado hold. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, all of Colorado is experiencing abnormally dry weather. Denver could see some rain and snow next week but this week has been a hot and dry one for the city.
Wednesday tied the historic high for Dec. 1, with temperatures reaching 73 degrees. It isn’t just Colorado that has seen fewer flakes as the year winds down—according to the National Weather Service, just 11.1% of the lower 48 states has snow on the ground, making it the fourth mildest start to December since 2003. Prolonged drought conditions have led to a water shortage being declared for the Colorado River Basin for the first time ever. The basin supplies drinking water for nearly 40 million people across six states.
Unsurprisingly, climate change is to blame for the drought conditions that developed in Colorado and across the West. According to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report released in September, the present drought “was caused by an unfortunate combination of variations in climate that led to a sequence of low precipitation seasons (most likely natural) beginning in the winter of 2019–20 and by both natural and human-caused warming.”
“[The drought] is exceptional in the instrumental and paleoclimate records, imposing massive water shortages and socioeconomic costs, triggering emergency declarations, and has even led to the first ever water delivery shortfall among the states sharing the Colorado River, the most important river basin in the region,” NOAA researchers added.
Snow and rain not only provide a needed boost for drinking water but can also lessen the chances of wildfires developing. As the NOAA report notes, “while neither Colorado’s snow nor Arizona’s rains have ended the drought in those states, they have diminished wildfire risks greatly.” This led to fewer wildfires reported in both states this year—a major improvement compared with last year, when Colorado saw its most active fire season in recorded history.
It could take several years before Colorado experiences some relief from drought conditions. December historically sees about eight inches of snow in Denver so all may not be lost for skiers this season, though an abbreviated season—or worse—could spell economic disaster. The ski industry is a major revenue driver in Colorado, generating $4.8 billion in annual economic output alone, according to market researchers RRC.
This may be a sign of what’s to come at the hands of global warming. A 2008 report found that temperatures in Colorado have been rising about two degrees per year since 1977. More recent research published in May by NOAA found that the last 30 years were warmer than the entire 20th century.
From Daily Kos at Read More. This article is republished from DailyKos under an open content license. Read the original article at DailyKos.