The Southwest could get a break from ongoing drought conditions into August, though much of the West and Texas won't be so lucky, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Drought Outlook predicts.
The monthly outlook, released Wednesday, shows a swath of drought improvement across all of New Mexico, western Kansas and portions of Arizona – a welcome development given that slow-to-recede drought conditions have plagued the area since early spring.
Most projections expected monsoon rains to ease conditions, and according to outlook author Rich Tinker, that could be the case.
Some places near the Arizona/New Mexico border can get 20% to 25% of their annual rainfall during August, Tinker said, further noting that eastern Arizona and central Colorado also have improved chances for a wetter-than-normal August and therefore better soil moisture and drought improvement.
Monthly drought outlook predicts persistent drought across Western states
In contrast, to the north and west of Arizona, monsoon projections aren't as promising, and drought is expected to persist.
The far West will likely stay dry, too, Tinker said, because August is typically a very dry month for the area. He reports that soil moisture content almost always declines regardless of whether it is wetter or drier than normal.
Into the northern Rockies and Intermountain west, rains are projected – but that doesn't equal drought relief. Tinker said August is often dry in the area, and soil moisture is depleted 5% to 15% more often than not. Warmer temperatures could add another layer of weather-related issues on top of dryness.
For the first half of August, Tinker said a front is expected to stall along lower sections of the central Plains, bringing rain to southern Nebraska and northern Missouri into Kansas, as well as eastern Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles, and the northern two-thirds of Oklahoma and Arkansas.
As the corn continues to mature in areas like Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, no drought development is forecast. Overall, forecast confidence is high to moderate in most areas of the contiguous U.S.