October 24, 2018 / Modified oct 24, 2018 12:38 p.m.

El Niño Could Bring Drought Relief to the Southwest

El Niño rainfall could relieve drought conditions in states like Arizona, but drought will persist elsewhere.

Mojave Cracked earth drought Cracked earth in the Joshua Tree National Park, where the National Park Service says severe drought and warming temperatures will likely affect the populations and home ranges of many species. (Brad Sutton, NPS)
OKLAHOMA CITY — Climatologists say conditions are right for development of an El Niño weather pattern that could bring wetter-than-normal conditions this winter in drought-stricken area of the southwestern U.S.

But weather researchers said Wednesday that even if an El Niño occurs, that doesn't assure that parched areas of the Southwest will receive more rain and snow. They also say higher-than-average precipitation is not likely to make up for rainfall deficits in the region over the past year.

The U.S. Drought Monitor says parts of the Southwest are experiencing extreme to exceptional drought, especially the Four Corners region of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona.

Gerry Bell, research meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center, says El Nino rainfall could relieve drought conditions in parts of those states, but drought will persist elsewhere.

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