Drought easing in Arizona

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- The National Weather Service is saying the drought conditions around Arizona have eased this summer with the usually wet summer in most locations. The following is from the weather service's statement:

The typically dry spring weather kept drought conditions solidly in tact, with slowly intensifying drought during the early parts of the monsoon season. However, more expansive thunderstorm activity and locally heavy rainfall during the past month have helped drought conditions improve significantly.

While more rainfall may be possible over the next month, it will be winter rain and snow over the mountains that will be critical in refilling reservoirs before next spring. Thus, impacts with respect to reservoir storage and water usage will continue to be the largest drought impacts for the remainder of the year.

Extreme drought still remains across almost all of Pinal County. Severe drought covers all but far southwest Maricopa County and much of Gila County, as well as the western portions of Imperial and Riverside counties in southeast California. The recent rainfall has allowed eastern Imperial and Riverside counties as well as large parts of Yuma, La Paz and southwest Maricopa counties to improve back to the moderate drought category. Both longer- and shorter-term rainfall have been beneficial for eastern Yuma and La Paz counties to bring them back to only abnormally dry conditions.

Currently, around 57 percent of the state of Arizona is at severe drought levels or worse, which is an excellent improvement as compared to three months ago when over 76 percent of the state was at such levels.

Neutral El Niño/La Niña conditions are slowly transitioning toward an El Niño episode late this summer. There is still no predictable influence on the overall late summer and autumn weather pattern from an El Niño event. There is a 70 percent chance of El Niño conditions fully developing during the fall and winter season.

Only moderate to strong El Niño cycles typically have a predictable wet signal for the southwest United States during the fall and winter seasons, with little influence from weak El Niño episodes. At this time, almost all signs point to a weak El Niño episode at best developing in the next several months.