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Monsoon 2018 not expected to end drought - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

Monsoon 2018 not expected to end drought

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The upcoming Monsoon in the nation’s Southwest is expected to be wetter than normal, but meteorologists said Monday that even an exceptionally damp season is unlikely to lift the region’s annual rainfall to average levels.

Forecasters said sparse rainfall since autumn in the Southern Plains has caused drought conditions to worsen, especially in the Four Corners region of Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. The U.S. Drought Monitor says moderate to extreme drought also persists in parts of Oklahoma and Texas.

Winter snowmelt and spring rains generally replenish water supplies, but precipitation through May has been insufficient to improve the region’s drought conditions, said Becky Bolinger, Colorado’s assistant state climatologist.

“By the time we got to January we were starting to see the results of a snow drought,” Bolinger said. “It has been increasing since then.”

Brian Klimowski, a National Weather Service Meteorologist in Flagstaff, said the Monsoon — a seasonal change in weather patterns — typically provides a significant percentage of rainfall in the region in July, August and September. Up to 50 percent of annual rainfall in New Mexico occurs during the Monsoon.

Klimowski said the region should begin receiving Monsoonal moisture during the first half of July. And while experts believe a developing El Nino weather pattern will help increase monsoonal rainfall, it won’t be enough to overcome the region’s rainfall deficit.

“We’re not replenishing the water supply in the Southwest,” Bolinger said. “We haven’t seen enough precipitation to improve conditions. Small rain events aren’t making a dent in this drought.”

Bolinger said warmer-than-normal temperatures and sporadic rainfall has exacerbated wildfire conditions in the region. Fire restrictions are in place in many southwestern states as the Fourth of July holiday approaches, and wildfire risks have closed some national forests to visitors.

“We’ve been having a lot of fires,” Bolinger said. The current wildfire has been more active than most due to drought conditions, Bolinger said, noting that the vast majority of wildfires are caused by people rather than lightning or other natural causes.

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