In the meantime, drought conditions persisted in the Southwest, where water is desperately needed to replenish the country’s largest reservoirs, and provide relief to regions tormented by record-setting wildfires.
Across the Pacific Northwest, drought conditions improved significantly over the past several weeks, with the areas in severe drought falling from a high of 55% in April to 25% this week.
“Much of the Northern Tier states experienced beneficial rainfall and near to below-normal temperatures, predominantly leading to drought improvements from the Pacific Northwest to the Northern Plains,” the Drought Monitor noted.
But this persistent and active storm track, which continues to bring rain and snow to the Northwest, has largely missed California and the Southwest.
In New Mexico, where two of the largest fires in state history are still burning, the drought summary noted that temperatures were running around 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit above average, which are worsening drought conditions in parts of western and southern New Mexico.
More than 50% of the state is in exceptional drought, the highest classification in the drought monitor, up from zero in January. This extreme dryness is playing a major role in fueling a fire year that is pacing to be the worst on record.
“We’re definitely looking at a hotter future,” Katrina Bennett, hydrologist with the lab and lead author of the study, told CNN. “There will be more of that wet to dry sort of scenarios we’re seeing, but regardless, we’re going to see more minimum streamflow, increase in drier soils and lower snowpacks, which all together will lead to likelihood of drought increasing across the board especially in the upper areas where we really haven’t seen that intense drought stress yet.”