“[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.