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The rain and snow helped, but much of Arizona still in drought conditions

Flagstaff snow
Posted at 6:14 PM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-28 20:30:19-05

PHOENIX — Even with this week's rain in the Phoenix area and snow in northern Arizona, nearly all of the state remains in some form of drought, though the rain and snow did help improve those conditions.

The U.S. Drought Monitor is a nationwide database that -- as its name implies -- monitors drought conditions, or how dry an area is, in any part of the country.

Snow totals and rain totals are entered into the nationwide database and a report is generated. Levels of drought can range from abnormally high to exception, which is reserved for the driest of the dry conditions.

But, it's not all they climatologists -- scientists who study weather patterns over tonight -- look at.

“We’re also looking at things like soil moisture, groundwater, streamflow, the effective drought on vegetation that’s derived from satellite products,” said Curtis Riganti, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska.

In Arizona, nearly 75% of the state was in the exceptional category last week.

With the recent rain and snow, now slightly more than half of the state remains in exceptionally dry conditions. A slight, but overall improvement week over week.

Why such high drought conditions? Well, according to Mike Crimmins, a climatologist at the University of Arizona, blame last year's "non-soon," or lack of rain during the monsoon season.

“We always complain that it doesn’t rain in our backyard, but overall, the state typically sees decent precipitation every monsoon season -- at least across the high country -- and this year, we just didn’t,” Crimmins said. “Not having that big chunk of precipitation caused us to fall into really extreme and exceptional drought conditions very quickly.”

Another storm is on the way with rain in the forecast. However, the long-term outlook isn't promising, according to Crimmins.

“Anything can happen but based on what we know about the La Niña pattern, we’re looking at above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation for the next couple of months.”