The first two weeks of July have offered a welcome relief from an extremely dry, dusty June on Blue Valley Ranch. In 15 days the ranch has received just over 2 inches of rain, including one weekend where over an inch of precipitation fell in 48 hours. In contrast, June saw a total of .11 inches of rain for the entire month, all of which came in a single rain event. And that was the first precipitation for the ranch in 32 days.
Although July’s precipitation is already above normal, with afternoon thunderstorms, like that in the photo above, likely to continue for the next week or so, this temporary respite from the dry conditions hardly qualifies as “breaking” the ongoing drought. This year is still shaping up to be one of the hottest, driest years on record for a larger portion of the country than any drought since the 1950’s.
The above graphic, taken from the US Drought Monitor, shows the Upper Colorado River Basin, nearly all of which is experiencing abnormally dry conditions. That ugly red streak representing extreme to exceptional drought lies across all of Northern and Central Colorado, where Blue Valley Ranch is located.
And this image, from the High Plains Regional Climate Center, summarizes last month in an instant. June was far below normal for precipitation across all of the mountain and central plains states. Colorado, near the lower left corner, is dark red, with the majority of the state below 50% of normal precipitation.
What does all of this mean for Blue Valley Ranch? Like all ranches in the West, drought is a part of life and a dry climate has shaped the landscape and ecology here as much as any other single factor. Excessive drought calls for some mitigating measures, however. Short-term adjustments in our management of both wildlife habitat and agricultural resources will help us survive through this year. For example, we have already modified our grazing rotation to utilize some pastures that we have historically deferred. Meanwhile, we can use the break from the high temps and dusty roads to plan for the possibility that this drought may persist a lot longer than anyone expects.