Forecasts show drought continuing in California, Southwest

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Federal agencies released a pair of forecasts showing dry conditions will persist in parts of the drought-stricken West, suggesting there won’t be enough snow to boost water supplies.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Water and Climate Center says the year has started off unusually dry in the Southwest. Separately, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center forecasts drought conditions to improve closer to the Mexican border but not in northern California and Nevada.

Here’s a look at the forecasts released Thursday:

CALIFORNIA:

Drought conditions are expected to improve across typically arid Southern California with forecasts of above-normal rainfall. But dry conditions in the vast majority of the state will likely remain — even intensify — through the end of April, according to the Climate Prediction Center. Despite December storms, rain has nearly halted in January, which is usually the wettest month of the year. Warmer weather has also held down the snowpack needed to feed streams and rivers.

NEW MEXICO AND ARIZONA:

—New Mexico and Arizona also started the year with unusually dry conditions. The Climate Prediction Center analysis shows drought conditions improving, or outright ending, in its outlook through April.

PACIFIC NORTHWEST:

—The region is starting the year off with drier conditions despite above-average precipitation. A warm winter has reduced snowpack in the mountains to levels far below normal, according to the USDA.

EL NINO:

—Both forecasts call for weak El Nino conditions, a tropical weather pattern over the Pacific Ocean that brings rain. Unless the pattern strengthens in the coming months, it is expected to bring little relief to the West. El Nino rainfall would have a greater impact on Southwestern states instead of the Pacific Northwest.

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