Climate change ravaged Colorado and the West with heat and drought in 2020. This year may be worse.
Coloradans also can look out their windows and see the “snow drought” forecasters are talking about when they say snow cover in the West is the worst it has been at any time in the last two decades.
If there were any doubts that the climate is changing in the Colorado River Basin, 2020 went a long way toward dispelling them.
Unprecedented wildfires, deadly heat waves, withering drought — the many indicators of the climate mayhem that scientists have been warning about for years — ravaged the landscape, claiming dozens of lives and causing billions of dollars in damage.
Colorado endured an unprecedented wildfire season. And so did California, in some cases burning where the wounds were still fresh from the epic fires of 2018. Utah experienced its driest year ever, and persistent high temperatures killed more people in Arizona than ever before. Monsoon rains that typically bring relief throughout the region were a no-show for the second summer in a row and now are being called the “non-soon.”
And, although the final climate data for 2020 has just arrived, forecasters are already filled with apprehension about what lies ahead for the West this year.
“We’ve got a pretty deep hole that 2020 has dug for us,” said Jon Meyer, research climatologist for the Utah Climate Center who points to low soil moisture, high temperatures and other measures of a hotter, drier climate. “Even a good year is not going to break us out of that.”
From the California coast to the eastern borders of Colorado and New Mexico, 2021 is beginning with virtually all of the Colorado River Basin in “extreme” or “exceptional” drought, conditions that haven’t been eased by this winter’s snowfall.
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