WeatherImpact Earth


Wet monsoon brings even more drought improvement, but will it last?

Posted at 11:46 AM, Aug 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-19 14:46:39-04

PHOENIX — We've seen soaking rain around the state throughout this monsoon season!

Phoenix Sky Harbor has ended up with above-average rainfall each month so far.

We've measured 3.37 inches of rain so far at the official Phoenix rain gauge. On average, the monsoon typically brings 2.43 inches of rain for the entire season!

While the monsoon rains have certainly led to a lot of flooding problems around our state, especially near wildfire burn scars, the rain has also brought some much-needed drought improvement.

As of Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor showed that 97% of Arizona is experiencing some level of drought. That's a drop from the 99% coverage we've seen for the past several months.

The most significant improvement comes when we look at the areas covered by an Exceptional drought, which is the worst kind. Nearly 58% of Arizona was experiencing Exceptional drought in May, but that is now down to approximately just 5% of the state.

The areas covered by Severe or Extreme drought have dropped, too.

Just last week, approximately 77% of Arizona was experiencing Severe or Extreme drought. That percentage is now down to approximately 51%.

As of Thursday, just over 40% of the state was experiencing a Moderate drought, which is the lowest level of drought.

The biggest improvement has been across central and southern Arizona. Meanwhile, the worst levels of drought remain across the northern tier of the state, particularly north of I-40.

While much of the Western U.S. is still deep in drought, monsoon rainfall has played a critical role in improving drought conditions across Arizona.

The monsoon rains have also helped eliminate the rainfall deficit at Phoenix Sky Harbor. 4.43 inches of rain has fallen at the airport so far this year. That's 0.03 inches above the normal through this point in the year.

Of course, we've seen even higher rainfall amounts in other parts of the Valley and across the state this monsoon.

The Flagstaff airport has measured 9.57 inches of rainfall so far this monsoon. In an average year, they pick up 7.68 inches of rain for the entire season.

In Tucson, it’s already the third wettest monsoon on record with 11.86 inches of rain so far this season! An average season brings 5.69 inches of rain to that part of the state.

While it's no doubt been a wet monsoon so far, it's possible we'll see less activity through September 30 which marks the official end of the Monsoon season.

According to the official outlook from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, odds favor drier than normal conditions through the end of September and into early fall.

We're also anticipating that La Nina will return in time for our 2021/2022 winter season. This typically means a drier than normal winter for our region.

If that's the case, it could erase any drought improvements we’ve seen this summer.