Pielke, Sr., R. A., N. Doesken, O. Bliss, T. Green, C. Chaffin, J. D. Salas, C. A. Woodhouse, J. J. Lukas, and K. Wolter, 2005: Drought 2002 in Colorado: An unprecedented drought or a routine drought? Pure Appl. Geophys., 162, 1455-1479.


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. The sobering conclusion is that Colorado is more vulnerable to drought today than under similar precipitation deficits in the past.