What the return of La Niña means for winter in Colorado

·1 min read

NOAA; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios; Data: NOAA; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

The return of La Niña for the second straight year means winter in Colorado will bring warmer temperatures and less precipitation than normal, according to a new forecast by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Why it matters: Dry conditions have fueled some of Colorado's most devastating wildfires, including last year's East Troublesome blaze, which raged for more than a month and destroyed nearly 194,000 acres.

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Zoom in: Almost the entire state is expected to see above-average temperatures this winter.

  • Drought across the Western Slope and northern part of the state is expected to worsen, while regions without dry spells, including southeast Colorado, will see water shortages develop.

  • Mountain snowpack during La Niña varies, but experts say to expect fewer major snowstorms.

NOAA; Map: Will Chase/Axios

The big picture: Severe-to-exceptional drought continues to dominate the western half of the country — a problem largely caused by climate change.

  • A 2020 study published in the journal Science found that climate change between 2000 and 2018 made drought conditions more severe in western North America than almost any other drought in the region since the year 800.

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