Arizona Drought; Current Conditions And Forecasts

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According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data, drought conditions remain moderate to severe across Arizona, despite an average to above-average summer monsoon season.

Climate forecasts suggest that Arizona will see above-average temperatures through the remainder of the summer into autumn. Fall through winter precipitation is forecasted to be below-average across Arizona. Data from NOAA buoys strung out across the Pacific Ocean are measuring a slight cooling of the ocean surface, which could mean that La Niña conditions are strengthening.

Right now the probability is 60 percent that the ocean will continue to cool enough to alter winter storm patterns. When the Pacific Ocean cools only a degree or two over large areas near the equator, winter storms that roll in from the west do not pull moisture from ocean with them and Arizona typically has a drier-than-average winter.

In conclusion, widespread summer showers across Arizona has helped improve short-term drought conditions and reduced the threat of forest fires. However, these showers have done little to raise reservoir levels or recharge ground water supplies, so the long-term impacts of drought are still with us in Rim Country.

Precipitation forecasts are indicating a below average winter, as La Niña conditions are starting to develop. Next time we will discuss winter weather patterns and whether it will be a good value to buy a season-ski pass for the winter of 08.

Joseph Shannon Ph.D. is the Natural Science Division Chair and Biology Instructor Gila Community College, and Northern Arizona University he is a Merriam Powell Center for Environmental Research, Adjunct Biology Professor. The Gila Project is a novel collaborative effort between Gila Community College, Northern Arizona University, and regional natural resource agencies to better understand water related topics. An important aspect for the Gila Project is to inform the general public about water related topics such as weather, climate, and related technology. This monthly column will be a step in that direction.

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