Ouray County Data Shows ‘Pretty Dramatic Turnaround,’ Says National Weather Service Recorder Karen Risch
OURAY COUNTY – After a painfully dry June, soggy monsoons in July and August delivered enough moisture to the mountains and valleys of the southwestern San Juans to bring total precipitation levels close to average for this calendar year.
In Ouray, National Weather Service recorder Karen Risch reported, “Historically, we should be at 15.28 inches for the calendar year, and we are currently at 15.10. We have made up 2.5 inches in last two months. It has been a pretty dramatic turnaround.”
The month of July typically brings 2.13 inches of precipitation to Ouray, Risch said, compared to 3.28 inches in 2013. August’s average is 2.33 inches, compared to 3.58 inches this year.
But those figures tell only part of the story. The National Weather Service measures annual accumulated precipitation in two ways – by calendar year and by water year. The water year is measured annually from October through September.
And a month shy of the conclusion of the 2012-13 water year, Ouray is still four inches below average. While the town’s historical annual precipitation per water year is 23.05 inches, Ouray has received only 19.19 inches of precipitation so far for the current water year.
In short, “We are nowhere near making up from last year’s drought,” Risch said.
There is still a chance that the water year could redeem itself; it is not unheard of for Ouray to receive over four inches of rain in September. The record, set in 1985, was 4.84 inches, compared to an average of 1.95.
Risch is keeping her fingers crossed for a sodden September. “It will be nice if we get our precipitation levels up to normal,” she said.
In Ouray and across the region, drought conditions have prevailed for well over a year. In 2012, in spite of having the rainiest July on record (5.34 inches), Ouray ended the calendar year about four inches down, with a total of only 18.91 inches of precipitation, compared to a normal level of 23.05 inches.
“September 2012 was drier than normal and so was October,” Risch recalled. “Normal for October is 2.14 inches, and we has .43.”
November had a similar story to tell. “Again, last year, we had .45 inches of precipitation, and normal is 2.03 inches,” Risch said.
A snowy December helped make up for those parched months – delivering 3.21 inches of precipitation compared to a normal level of 1.65 inches.
The 2011/12 water year, too, shaped up to be a drought year for Ouray. “And it looks like it will be again this year,” Risch said. “But we won’t know until September is over.”
Forecaster Jim Daniels out of the National Weather Service’s Grand Junction office said that a similar story is unfolding across the region, with above-average monsoonal rainfall in July and August helping to bring accumulation to near-normal to slightly above-normal levels for this calendar year.
“For the year as a whole, the area is near normal or dryer than normal, because we had a pretty dry spring, especially in June,” Daniels said. “July and August helped make up the deficit but what it has done is bring things closer to normal.”
Weather observers at the Montrose Airport measured 2.08 inches of rainfall in July, and 1.29 inches in August, considerably up from the average monthly levels of .83 inches and .88 inches, respectively. Total precipitation for the calendar year so far, measured at the same location from January through August 2013, is 6.02 inches, compared to an average of 4.65.
Ridgway, like Ouray, is still slightly below average for the calendar year, with an accumulated total of 10.18 inches of precipitation from January through August, compared to an average of 11.31.
No data was available for Telluride.
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