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Publication Date
15 April 2024

Can we rely on drought‐ending “miracles” in the Colorado River Basin?



Unexpected and large spring precipitation events in the Colorado River Basin (CRB) that significantly alleviated an otherwise severe water shortage have been observed for over a century, such as the “Miracle May” of 2015. Although these events are often termed as “drought‐busting” or “miracle events” by water managers and the media, they have not been extensively researched or characterized. In this collaborative study with water managers across the CRB, we propose a definition for these hard‐to‐predict, ultra‐high precipitation events occurring during the late‐snow or snowmelt season. This characterization provides a framework for quantifying the frequency and intensity of extreme dry‐to‐wet springtime transitions. Despite limitations of climate model simulations due to uncertainties and the inhomogeneous qualities, our findings suggest that such transitions may become less frequent and less intense in a warming climate. In view of the potentially wetter but less‐snowy climate in the basin, the need for future research to more quantitatively assess these “miracle events” is emphasized.

Pokharel, Binod, Kripa Akila Jagannathan, S.‐Y. Simon Wang, Andrew Jones, Matthew D. LaPlante, Smitha Buddhavarapu, Krishna Borhara, et al. 2024. “Can We Rely On Drought‐Ending “Miracles” In The Colorado River Basin?”. Jawra Journal Of The American Water Resources Association. Wiley, 1-12. doi:10.1111/1752-1688.13204.
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