Dry monsoon season increases drought conditions in AZ

By Katherine Davis-Young
Published: Thursday, August 24, 2023 - 4:29pm

Arizona drought May
U.S. Drought Monitor
About 82% of Arizona was not in a drought as of late May.

After a wet winter, drought conditions had significantly improved across Arizona. But now, our hot summer has started to reverse the trend. 

As of May, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported more than 80% of Arizona was not in a drought. Three months later, almost 90% of the state is abnormally dry.

David Simeral, an associate research climatologist with the Western Regional Climate Center, said a weak monsoon season across the Southwest is to blame. The lack of summer rain has led to poor soil moisture and stressed vegetation.

“We’re also seeing stream flows around the state, particularly in Southeast Arizona, as well as areas on the Mogollon Rim, falling below the 10th percentile range, which is very low,” Simeral said. 

Simeral said the Southeast corner of the state is seeing the most serious impacts, with parts of Cochise and Greenlee Counties in the U.S. Drought Monitor's "severe drought" level.  

"About half of their annual precipitation comes during the summer monsoon season, so they see, generally, a big green up in their grasses, but this year things are really starting to dry out," Simeral said. “You have impacts to the agricultural community potentially, but also you have increased fire risks with the vegetation drying out.” 

Simeral said El Niño climate patterns are likely to bring more warm and dry conditions to Arizona this winter.

Arizona Drought August
U.S. Drought Monitor
About 89% of Arizona is abnormally dry as of Aug. 22, 2023.

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