Although March saw record warmth, officials say back-to-back La Nina events are also behind the drier than normal conditions. NBC's Anne Thompson reports.
Most of the Southwest as well as parts of California and the Southeast can expect drought conditions to worsen through July, federal forecasters said Thursday.
"Overall, the current Drought Outlook is not optimistic," the National Weather Service said in summarizing its forecast.
Besides affecting farmers and ranchers, drought means a greater risk of wildfires, especially in those areas expecting a warmer than average spring. A rash of brush fires earlier this month up and down the East Coast could be a preview of a long, hot spring and summer.
"May – July is expected to be warmer than normal" in the Southwest and West, the service added in a more detailed report.
"For most of the southwestern and western part of the country, drought is expected to persist in most locations and expand into the central Rockies," it added.
"In addition, mountain snowpack, the source of a lot of the region’s moisture, is starting off below normal, and as a result summer streamflows are expected to be abnormally low," forecasters noted.
Arizona and New Mexico, both states in drought, last year saw their worst wildfire seasons on record. Parts of both states should see some improvement along their southern borders, the forecast stated, but most of their areas will see continued or even worsening drought.
Most of California and Nevada, as well as parts of Colorado, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington state, are also forecast to see drought persisting or intensifying.
On the East Coast, most of Georgia and South Carolina, as well as parts of Alabama, Delaware and Maryland, are expected to see continued or worse drought conditions.
Florida, on the other hand, was forecast to see improvement across the entire state.
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