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Has Southwest Colorado missed out on the monsoons?

Long-term forecasts calls for above-average temps, lower precipitation
Irrigation runs on a hay field southeast of Durango. A typical monsoon pattern, which brings consistent afternoon rains, has failed to materialize so far this summer. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Monsoons that normally offer a reprieve from the summer heat July and August in Southwest Colorado have by and large been a no-show this year.

A high-pressure system that has settled over parts of the Southwest has blocked moisture from reaching this corner of the state, said Tom Renwick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

The monsoons typically begin in July and extend through August. They tend to bring a steady pattern of afternoon showers, especially in the higher elevations of the San Juan Mountains. While the rainy season has largely been nonexistent this summer, forecasters are reluctant to say the monsoons are a total bust.

Renwick told The Durango Herald this past spring has had an abundance of moisture, and said it is possible a late showing of monsoonal rains could still materialize.

“Maybe in September things will start picking up,” he said, speaking hypothetically. “... There's always that chance.”

The NWS Climate Prediction Center is calling for above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation August through October in the Four Corners.

The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center is calling for above-average temperatures for the Four Corners from August through October.
The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center is calling for below-average precipitation for the Four Corners from August through October.

Despite the lack of monsoons, the area is doing fairly well for moisture so far this year, Renwick said, thanks in part to above-average rainfall this spring.

As of this week, the Durango area had received 6.78 inches of precipitation, which is only 0.26 inches below average, he said.

At this time last year, the area had received 5.72 inches of precipitation.

“In the grand scheme of things, we’re pretty much where we should be,” Renwick said.

The Cortez area has received 8.29 inches of precipitation so far this year, which is 2.14 inches more than the area’s 6.15 inches for this time of year, he said. At this time last year, Cortez had received only 3.76 inches of precipitation for the year.

The U.S. Drought Monitor had all of Southwest Colorado in “abnormally dry” to “moderate drought” conditions as of Thursday.

Southwest Colorado was listed as “abnormally dry” to “moderate drought” as of Thursday, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

While a typical monsoon pattern doesn’t appear to be setting up yet, the high-pressure system may weaken and allow some moisture to arrive later this week, Renwick said.

He said moisture will arrive Thursday and stick around through the weekend. He cautioned that moisture in the air doesn’t mean a deluge of rain, but there is at least a chance for showers.

“Bottom line is, chances increase for isolated to scattered showers and thunderstorms,” he said, but added it could be dry again next week.