SALT LAKE CITY — Rainstorms that caused damaging flash floods in southern Utah this week have had a positive impact on short-term drought conditions for that part of the state, prompting an assessment of “extreme” drought rather than the previous, and more severe, “exceptional” designation.
Brad Rippey, an agricultural meteorologist with the USDA, says Utah is having a good summer for rain after a terrible 2020. He is part of a rotation of nine scientists who produce the U.S. Drought Monitor Maps.
"Last year in 2020 was effectively a monsoon failure, so it's really good news to see a robust and active monsoon circulation in 2021,” Rippey said.
The rainfall led to damaging flash floods in a number of communities, but the drought may be more to blame than the rain itself.
"Drought can actually exacerbate runoff when you get soils that are baked into almost a concrete-like consistency that can really aggravate the runoff situation in times of heavy rainfall,” said Rippey.
Dialing back the drought assessment means southern Utah’s plants will get greener, streams will flow, and wildfire will not have as much fuel.
But it doesn’t change the long-term effects of what Rippey calls a 20-year “mega-drought.”
“Impacts such as groundwater shortages, low reservoir levels, that's going to persist,” he said.