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Drought Eases in Arizona; Phoenix Area Now "Moderate"

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After the storm like the one the Valley had last night and all the wildfires, you'd think Arizona was one giant dust bowl.

You'd be wrong.

Despite "exceptional," bone-dry conditions in the southeastern part of the state, the latest U.S. Drought Monitor Web site shows that some parts of western Arizona are no longer in a drought at all.

For the June 28 posting, a large part of western Arizona is only listed on the site as having the lowest-grade drought, which is a change from recent years.

The Phoenix area is now considered "moderate" for drought.

"A year or two ago, most of Arizona was painted pretty bleak -- severe drought," says Ken Waters, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service, (the same guy we talked for our earlier haboob blog).

In the last few months, "conditions have changed," says Waters. "Mostly the Colorado River Valley."

Experts quoted in a January Arizona Republic article predicted less-serious drought conditions due to the snow-pack at the Grand Canyon and other places along the Colorado River.

Sandra Fabritz-Whitney, acting director for the state's Department of Water Resources, says the drought easing "seems like a great thing" for the part of Arizona it's affecting.

But she noted that part of the state that's still in the drought map's red zone and that her department is monitoring the situation closely.

An article published last month by University of Arizona scientist Zack Guido notes that much of southern Arizona and parts of New Mexico are still deathly dry. But the map he uses also shows no drought conditions for a decent sliver of western Arizona. His theme is the need for a wet monsoon season -- and predicts we'll get it:

Warmer conditions increase the temperature difference between the hot landscape and the cooler ocean waters off the coast of Baja California, which in turn causes moisture to waft into the Southwest sooner and more routinely. By this reasoning, the Southwest monsoon may come earlier than average, or before the first week in July, and deliver much needed rains.

Other research also suggests that summer thunderstorms will be plentiful, at least in July. Research published in 2001 by Christopher Castro, assistant professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona, showed that monsoon seasons during a La Niña event and negative PDO phase--the current climate context--came early and delivered above-average rainfall in the first of the monsoon season.

More rain would sure be nice. It might push Arizona further out of drought conditions. And it'll clean that dust out of our back yard.

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