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Climate: Drought conditions edge westward

Wet, cool spring brings relief to Midwest

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The most severe areas of drought encompass parts of the central-southern plains, spreading southwest into parts of Colorado and New Mexico.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Drought woes have eased in the Midwest after a wet spring, but the far West,  California in particular, are facing continued dry conditions. California has reported its driest year to-date on record, with only 27 percent of normal precipitation for January through April. That doesn’t bode well for the state’s water supplies, although at least reservoir storage is close to normal in California.

New Mexico and Nevada are in bad shape when it comes to reservoir storage and there’s little relief in sight at the end of the snow season. Forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said dry soil conditions in the southwest could contribute to higher than average temperatures this summer.

During the monthly climate briefing from the National Climatic Data Center, the experts said they expect drought conditions to persist and perhaps worsen stretching westward from West Texas through New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California. Drought persistence is also expected in southeastern Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska.

More moderate drought conditions prevail across South Dakota westward through Wyoming, southern Idaho and parts of Oregon.

In the larger hemispheric climate picture, the Pacific Ocean remains in a neutral state, tilting slightly toward the cooler La Niña phase, which may be related to a cool phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Historically, the cooler PDO phase, combined with warmer than average ocean temps in the northeast Atlantic have signaled dry conditions in parts of the West.

Climate experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration highlighted a pattern of extremes going back to last year, when much of the country saw record or near-record high spring temps. By contrast, a big chunk of the country was much cooler than average this spring, especially the north-central region, where several states recorded record- and near-record cold.

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