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Arizona’s historic drought won’t be fixed in single strong monsoon season

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX – Climate experts say drought conditions in Arizona are the type usually only seen once or twice in a century and one season of rain won’t fix it.

The U.S. Drought Monitor said 58% of the state is in exceptional drought, the worst level. Another 29% is in extreme drought.

“You have to go back to June of 2002 to see anything similar to our current conditions and that was when 35% of Arizona was at this exceptional drought level,” University of Arizona climatologist Mike Crimmins told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

Arizona State University climatologist Randy Cerveny said, “We’re going to need several years of water to get us back into a good situation in Arizona.”

Arizona has already entered the driest period of the year, April through June.

“The monsoon officially begins June 15. We’re just going to have to hang in there for the next couple of months until the rainfall arrives.”

The second biggest wildfire in state history started just days after the 2002 monsoon season kicked off. The human-caused Rodeo-Chediski Fire in eastern Arizona charred almost 470,000 acres and destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses.

As of Monday, nearly 12,000 acres have burned in 233 fires across the state this year, the Department of Forestry said.

“We’ve missed out on a lot of precipitation,” Cerveny said. “Any kind of a spark is going to create a nasty situation.”

But he added, the National Weather Service is predicting an above-normal summer of rainfall from the monsoon.

The official gauge at Phoenix Sky Harbor has only measured 1.05 inches of rain this year; the average at this point is 3.02 inches. Tucson International Airport is at 1.04 inches of rainfall in 2021; the average is 2.74 inches.

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