MONTE VISTA— 2017 was a good water year and snowpack, but 2018 is shaping up to be a drought year. This and other statistics about weather patterns in the San Luis Valley were brought by Nolan Doesken, climatologist for the Colorado Water Institute at CSU, during the 2018 Southern Rocky Mountain Agricultural Conference. Doesken gave a presentation titled “Recent past weather and a look ahead.”
“You have this beautiful sunshine, yet you really want rain? I don’t understand you all,” joked Doesken. Doesken stated previous years had been okay to average with precipitation that local crops had responded to. This year is looking bleak in terms of water to be expected.
The weather in the Valley is “warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter,” according to Doesken. The Valley is also cooler than other parts of the state and is unique that it expands one of the largest areas of agricultural land in the United States.
“Last summer was a crazy wet year. It’s one of the wettest years we’ve ever seen down here,” said Doesken.
“Falls have been consistently warm for the last several years. You’ve probably noticed that. It’s quite interesting in that regard,” he said.
Doesken pointed out that one of the best water years was about 12 percent water precipitation. “Do you realize how little water that is to the rest of the country? Yet here it’s all time weather. You make an amazing go of it with very little water and the amazing mountain resources around you.”
Doesken then addressed the trends in 2018. “We’re not doing very good,” he said. It is warmer than average temperatures this year. “Do you realize so far this year you’ve had two days where you were in the 60s?” So far 57 days in winter have had high temperatures of 57 or above. According to Doesken this has happened before— in 1981. Records show that was a drought year with no snow in the San Luis Valley.
The temperatures in the Valley are very variable said Doesken. This variance can be seen by simply comparing temperatures at the end of the day, aftertoon and early morning. “There has been days where there have been 50 and 60 degree swings in temperature...that is something you’re used to here but this year has been more extreme than most.”
Doesken ended by saying the odds are in favor of dryness continuing through spring as has been the case in other years where the weather has followed a similar pattern. However, the odds are not completely stacked against possible increased precipitation because some systems are weakening. “You’re also favoring a good monsoon,” he said.