The dry end to summer is beginning to take its toll.

Approximately half of Colorado is now considered to be abnormally dry by the United States Drought Monitor, based on Thursday’s update. Nearly 7% of the state is officially in a drought.

As of Thursday, about 49.5 % of Colorado is considered to be abnormally dry, a level below official drought conditions. However, abnormally dry conditions are the Drought Monitor’s precursor to drought, and an indication that a recent dry spell is starting to have consequences.

Not surprisingly, the part of Colorado that is officially considered to be in a drought is the southwest corner (the tan shading in the map above). An extremely dry monsoon season is largely to blame for the drought in southwest Colorado and throughout much of the desert Southwest. Southern and western Colorado receive much of their summer precipitation from the monsoon.

The abnormally dry conditions – again, that’s a step below an official drought – extend into parts of the Front Range. While Denver experienced a roughly average summer’s worth of rainfall, August finished considerably drier than average. That said, the Front Range’s immediate drought concerns are fairly insignificant, for now.

The drier weather in the mountains could – coupled with other short-term weather factors – increase wildfire risk, even as summer turns to fall. While this past winter was one of the snowiest in recent memory and helped boost reservoir levels, a rapid growth in vegetation can create additional fuel for wildfires. The recent Hunt fire in northwest Colorado is an indication that fires can develop late in the summer season, even when they follow a soggy winter and spring.

In the near term, it’s expected to stay mostly dry and warm through the weekend for most of the state. Temperatures could spike back near 90 in Denver by Sunday, continuing a sizzling start to September across Colorado.