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Reporting on science, technology and innovation in Arizona and the Southwest through a collaboration from Arizona NPR member stations. This project is funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.Additional stories from the Arizona Science Desk are posted at our collaborating station, KJZZ:

Short-Term Arizona Drought Conditions Helped Some By Recent Rain – But Not Everywhere

courtesy of NOAA Regional Climate Centers

The late monsoon rains in September brought short-term drought relief for southeastern Arizona, but scattered heavy rain events meant little recovery for the rest of the state, according to the latest report from the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

A technical committee updates Arizona drought status each week. Nancy Selover is the state climatologist and chairs the committee.

She said this year’s monsoon was patchy compared to the more geographically uniform rain last year.

“This year we had some pockets that were much wetter than normal, but we also had some pockets that were drier than average,” Selover said.

Arizona saw as little as a fraction of an inch of rain last month in many parts of the state, while some areas in southeastern Arizona received more than 6 inches of rainfall. This led to an improvement, in the near-term, for drought conditions in that corner of the state.

For signs of short-term drought, state employees and tribal members look for changes in the color of rangeland grass and water levels in ponds. These “drought-spotters” identify the effects of recent rain – or lack of rain – and note changes.

“They’re kind of expert eyes, and we depend on them to give us some of those impacts,” Selover said.

The committee also produces long-term drought reports, which refer to years of cumulative precipitation, as well as soil moisture, forest health and groundwater levels.