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El Niño & the Southwest Drought Status Update for December 6, 2018

Extreme Drought Entrenched in the Four Corners. Weak El Niño Expected through Winter and Spring.

  • Extreme drought remains entrenched in the Four Corners area of the Southwest.
  • Recent above-normal precipitation has resulted in some drought improvement in eastern areas of Colorado and New Mexico. However, long-term precipitation deficits centered over the Four Corners area continue to adversely impact streamflows, reservoir levels, and agriculture/ranching
  • According to some drought indices, portions of the Southwest will need approximately 167% of normal precipitation over the next 6 months to end current drought conditions.
  • There is an 80% chance that El Niño (likely weak) will form and continue through the 2018-2019 winter and a 55-60% chance that it will continue into spring

DROUGHT IMPACTS

  • Streamflows are very low in much of western Colorado, northern New Mexico, and southern Utah
  • Agriculture: Across the U.S., approximately 12% of hay acreage and 11% of cattle inventory is within an area experiencing drought
  • Reservoir levels vary. Many are well below average:
    • Elephant Butte Reservoir (NM): 6% of average
    • San Carlos Reservoir (AZ): 4% of average
    • Sevier Bridge Reservoir (UT): 15% of average
    • Blue Mesa Reservoir (CO): 41% of average
    • Lake Powell: 68% of average

OUTLOOK

  • There is an 80% chance that El Niño (likely weak) will form and continue through the 2018-2019 winter and a 55-60% chance that it will continue into spring
  • The Drought Outlook through February 2019 indicates that drought will persist in most of Utah; drought will remain but improve in the Four Corners area

Special Thanks
This drought status report was developed from a webinar presented on 29 November 2018 by Mike Halpert, Deputy Director, NOAA Climate Prediction Center, and Royce Fontenot, Senior Service Hydrologist, NOAA National Weather Service, Weather Forecast Office, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Drought and Climate Outlook Webinars are offered for regional Drought Early Warning Systems. More information can be found at: https://www.drought.gov/drought/calendar/webinars