But they warn precipitation probably won't return to normal any time soon.
Assistant state climatologist Nolan Doesken and federal drought experts say 2002 appears to be the worst year of the current drought cycle. The 12 months from October of last year until September of this year were the driest on record when measured by stream flow.
Doeskin says it's rare for a drought to produce two record years in a row. That's one reason he and others think the drought has bottomed out.
But previous droughts have continued after their worst year, sometimes for five more years.
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- A drought is a period of abnormally dry weather, which persists long enough to produce a serious hydrologic imbalance (for example crop damage, water supply shortage, etc.)
- The severity of the drought depends upon the degree of moisture deficiency, the duration and the size of the affected area.
- There are four different ways that drought can be defined:
- Meteorological - a measure of departure of precipitation from normal. Due to climatic differences what is considered a drought in one location may not be a drought in another location.
- Agricultural - refers to a situation when the amount of moisture in the soil no longer meets the needs of a particular crop
- Hydrological - occurs when surface and subsurface water supplies are below normal.
- Socioeconomic - refers to the situation that occurs when physical water shortage begins to affect people.
- The Dust Bowl days of the 1930's affected 50 million acres of land, rendering the farmers helpless.
- In the 1950's, the Great Plains suffered a severe water shortage when several years went by with rainfall well below normal.
- The worst drought in 50 years affected at least 35 states during the long hot summer of 1988.
- In 1988, rainfall totals over the mid-west, Northern Plains and the Rockies were 50 percent to 85 percent below normal.
- During the great drought of 1988, Governor Guy Hunt of Alabama led a statewide prayer for rain. It came the very next day, and the thunderstorms continued for weeks.
Source: www.nws.noaa.gov (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) contributed to this report