12/28/2012 10:04 am ET Updated Dec 28, 2012

Holiday Snowfall Improves Resort Conditions In Colorado, But Leaves Uncertainty In Drought Outlook In State

Despite some much needed snowfall over the holidays which improved snowpack and general skiing conditions in Colorado's mountain resorts, the state's drought outlook into 2013 remains uncertain.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, nearly the entire state is still consumed by "Severe" drought or worse. Much of north- and southeast Colorado is consumed by "Extreme" and "Exceptional" drought conditions while the Front Range is mostly rated as "Severe" with a northern section rated as "moderate."

December also began dryer than it finished and in the early part of the month snow levels in Colorado's major river basins were much lower than average, as much as 40 percent lower, The Associated Press reported. Speaking about the latest snowfall in the state, Colorado climatologist Nolan Doesken told The Associated Press, "It's not quite good enough to pull us out of the drought, but at least it's bringing temporary relief and optimism."

The trouble is Doeskin says that the forecast for the beginning of 2013 doesn't include much moisture and the long-range outlook is unclear.

In October, the National Weather Service issued a similar uncertain outlook for the state's drought conditions in 2013, via the NOAA report:

An elusive El Niño continues to challenge seasonal climate forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. Forecasters say a wavering El Niño, expected to have developed by now, makes this year’s winter outlook less certain than previous years. “This is one of the most challenging outlooks we’ve produced in recent years because El Niño decided not to show up as expected,” said Mike Halpert, deputy of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

NOAA also reported that the outlook for early 2013 calls for a "40 to 50 percent chance of above-average temperature for the western one-third of Colorado and a slightly lower 33.3-40 percent chance for above-average temperature for the remainder of the state." However, NOAA forecasted that overall Colorado should see more snowfall this winter compared to last winter, but that the storms that deliver the snow will be greater in number, but short and less-intense.



U.S. Drought 2012-2013