Arizona-based experts on long-term weather forecasting, water-supply outlooks and forest health said last week they expect the balance of the year will be dry for a 17th year of drought conditions.
The governor’s Drought Interagency Coordinating Group officially extended the region’s lengthy period of drought at its meeting. To no one’s surprise, the panel approved a motion to recommend the current drought status be continued in the group’s message to Gov. Doug Ducey.
In all, the panel looked at seven reports on the connected issues of drought, weather, Colorado River water supplies, the in-state Salt and Verde river watersheds and the tinder-dry condition of Arizona’s forested highlands.
Mark O’Malley of the National Weather Service predicted that for the sixth consecutive year, runoff into the Salt River and Verde River valleys will be below normal.
He also said the approaching summer “monsoon” season looks likely to be as strong as the summer rains of 2015. Those warm rains, however, are not an effective replacement for winter high-country snows to recharge the state’s reservoirs.
“What we’ve seen may be what we see going forward,” O’Malley said.
Arizona State Forester Jeff Whitney reported that his department officially has been renamed the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management.