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Arizona Sees Little Change In Long-Term Drought Conditions

Arizona drought
(Photo by National Drought Mitigation Center)
The latest Arizona drought map.

Winter snow and rain are improving short-term drought conditions in some parts of the state, but have not yet changed  Arizona’s long-term drought status.  

The long-term drought status compares recent precipitation and streamflow to a 40-year historical record. The latest update is based on data collected through the end of 2015.

Right now, streamflow is considered near normal in some parts of the state, and below average in others.

State climatologist Nancy Selover said snowpack is better than recent years, but below historical averages.

“The amount that we got didn’t warrant any changes, because we hadn’t started getting what we hoped to be a pretty good snowpack this year,” Selover said. “Typically, that happens starting mid-January to early February on an El Niño year.

The Verde River watershed in central Arizona continues to experience moderate drought.

The eastern and southern parts of the state are considered abnormally dry, a classification just shy of drought. Watersheds in the northern and western parts of the state are not in drought conditions.

Selover said these current classifications may be optimistic, because long-term monitoring data are averaged over large areas. This method may miss smaller patches of drought.

The state drought committee will release the next long-term update in May.

Watch The U.S. Drought Situation Change Over The Past Year

Source: National Drought Mitigation Center

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Amanda Solliday is the Arizona Science Desk reporter for KAWC.