Drought 2002 in Colorado: An unprecedented drought or a routine drought?

Roger A. Pielke, Nolan Doesken, Odilia Bliss, Tara Green, Clara Chaffin, Jose D. Salas, Connie A. Woodhouse, Jeffrey J. Lukas, Klaus Wolter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


The 2002 drought in Colorado was reported by the media and by public figures, and even by a national drought-monitoring agency, as an exceptionally severe drought. In this paper we examine evidence for this claim. Our study shows that, while the impacts of water shortages were exceptional everywhere, the observed precipitation deficit was less than extreme over a good fraction of the state. A likely explanation of this discrepancy is the imbalance between water supply and water demand over time. For a given level of water supply, water shortages become intensified as water demands increase over time. The sobering conclusion is that Colorado is more vulnerable to drought today than under similar precipitation deficits in the past.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1455-1479
Number of pages25
JournalPure and Applied Geophysics
Issue number8-9
StatePublished - Aug 2005


  • Colorado
  • Drought
  • Paleoclimatology
  • Precipitation
  • Snowpack
  • Streamflow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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