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Taryn Finnessey
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Drought and Climate Change

The hydrology and water resources of Colorado are extremely sensitive to climate. Climate change is projected to increase the frequency of drought events in Colorado. Warmer temperatures will likely result in precipitation occurring as rain rather than snow, earlier spring melt, more intense precipitation events, and increased evapotranspiration. Thus, there will be reduced late spring and early summer flows and longer draw-down periods for reservoirs. This could increase the vulnerability of water resource systems during intense or persistent drought. While such vulnerability may be somewhat buffered in large water systems by robustness and resilience in the design, smaller systems may be extremely vulnerable under climate scenarios not considered in their original design.

How could Climate Change Impact Colorado?
Current climate models project that Colorado will warm by 2.5°F by 2025 and 4°F by 2050. Summers months will likely experience a greater temperature increase than winter months. Warmer temperatures in the summer will affect evaporation rates in Colorado’s rivers, streams, and reservoirs and potentially reduce the available water supply.

    Maximum Drought Length Exceedance Probabilities – Colorado River Basin

Paleoclimatic Techniques 
Paleoclimatic techniques, such as measurement of tree rings, ice cores, pollens, and ancient lake levels, are also employed to study drought patterns and frequencies over the past several centuries. The National Climatic Data Center through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has compiled past climate and environment data organized by different data types 


 Additional Information