DENVER Put on your poodle skirts and tune in Elvis on the transistor radio, because its starting to look a lot like the 1950s.
Unfortunately, this wont be the nostalgic 50s of big cars and pop music.
The 1950s that could be on the way to Colorado is the decade of drought.
So says Brian Bledsoe, a Colorado Springs meteorologist who studies the history of ocean currents and uses what he learns to make long-term weather forecasts.
I think were reliving the 50s, bottom line, Bledsoe said Friday morning at the annual meeting of the Colorado Water Congress.
Bledsoe studies the famous El Niño and La Niña ocean currents. But he also looks at other, less well-known cycles, including long-term temperature cycles in the oceans.
In the 1950s, water in the Pacific Ocean was colder than normal, but it was warmer than usual in the Atlantic. That combination caused a drought in Colorado that was just as bad as the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
The ocean currents slipped back into their 1950s pattern in the last five years, Bledsoe said. The cycles can last a decade or more, meaning bad news for farmers, ranchers, skiers and forest residents.
Drought feeds on drought. The longer it goes, the harder it is to break, Bledsoe said.
The outlook is worst for Eastern Colorado, where Bledsoe grew up and his parents still own a ranch. They recently had to sell half their herd when their pasture couldnt provide enough feed.
Theyve spent the last 15 years grooming that herd for organic beef stock, he said.
Bledsoe looks for monsoon rains to return to the Four Corners and Western Slope in July. But theres still a danger in the mountains in the summer.
Initially, dry lightning could be a concern, so obviously, the fire season is looking not so great right now, he said.
Weather data showed the last years conditions were extreme.
Nolan Doesken, Colorados state climatologist, said the summer of 2012 was the hottest on record in Colorado. And it was the fifth-driest winter since record-keeping began more than 100 years ago.
Despite recent storms in the San Juan Mountains, this winter hasnt been much better.
Weve had a wimpy winter so far, Doesken said. The past week has been a good week for Colorado precipitation.
However, the next weeks forecast shows dryness returning to much of the state.
Reservoir levels are higher than they were in 2002 the driest year since Coloradans started keeping track of moisture but the state is entering 2013 with reservoirs that were depleted last year.
You dont want to start a year at this level if youre about to head into another drought, Doesken said.
It was hard to find good news in Friday mornings presentations, but Bledsoe is happy that technology helps forecasters understand the weather better than they did during past droughts. That allows people to plan for whats on the way.
Im a glass-half-full kind of guy, he said.