NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Over the last few months, the water situation across New Mexico has improved dramatically. Last year, portions of the Rio Grande ran dry. This year, the data paints a different picture.

“It all started with the monsoon last year,” says KRQE News 13 Meteorologist Zoe Mintz. “A lot of the moisture, it kind of dissipated the drought from west to east.

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Over the last six months, the drought has eased across New Mexico. Note: The U.S. Drought Monitor is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Map courtesy of NDMC.

Over the last six months, much of New Mexico went from being “abnormally dry” to no longer experiencing drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Mintz explains that atmospheric rivers from California played a key role.

Atmospheric rivers occur when water vapor flows in a concentrated region within the atmosphere. Recently, they have carried moisture from the Pacific Ocean across the western states, including New Mexico. Similar flows continued into winter.

“Storm tracks in the winter came from the atmospheric rivers in California,” Mintz says. “They kept on hitting the western part of the state and the Four Corners and then would lift before reaching the eastern part of the state. So that’s why the east is a lot drier right now than the west.”

All the recent moisture is painting an optimistic picture for New Mexico. Bureau of Reclamation Water Operations officials say it’s likely that the Rio Grande won’t dry up in Albuquerque this year.

But just how moist – or dry – the state gets this spring and summer depends on how much moisture arrives and how quickly existing snow melts.

“Right now, we have a lot of snow still on the ground, which is really good,” Mintz says. “It’s been melting pretty quickly over the past couple of weeks because of the warmer temperatures, but the recent snowstorm (and another storm on the way Friday) is really, really good news for our drought conditions.”

And before long, it’ll be monsoon season again in New Mexico. Zoe Mintz reminds readers to keep an eye on for special reports on the monsoon season from the weather team.