this had been all over the local news:
BOULDER (AP) - New federal research suggests the worst of the drought may be over for Colorado and the Southwest, with El Nino potentially bringing more snow this winter.
But scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration cautioned Wednesday that it will take a while to recover from the drought, one of the most severe on record.
Scientists also are unsure of the long-term impact of rising ocean temperatures that may have worsened the drought stretching from the United States to central Asia this year. They said the higher temperatures may be linked to higher volumes of carbon dioxide and other man-made, heat-trapping gases associated with global warming.
"This has certainly been a huge drought for the Western United States, with substantial implications across the board," said Randall Dole, director of the Climate Diagnostics Center at the NOAA lab.
The drought is severe to extreme in 80 percent of the West, the worst since the Dust Bowl of the mid-1930s, Dole said. Nearly 50 percent of the country is in a drought.
Relief could be on the way, particularly for the Southwest, including New Mexico and Arizona, because of the return of El Nino, meteorologist Klaus Wolter said. The Northwest, including Montana, historically is "a bit on the dry side," during El Ninos.
The weather phenomenon, which started in April, is a warming of the large area of water in the tropical Pacific. The change influences wind and weather patterns passing over the area and can have impacts worldwide.
The last El Nino occurred in 1997-98. Wolter said he believes this one will be of moderate strength and, based on records dating to the 1950s, should bring more moisture this year to the Front Range, southern and northwestern Colorado.
The north-central mountains could get significant moisture in November, but less in the spring.
Wolter said, though, just one good winter won't be enough to end the drought. "It took us three years to get into this situation. It's not going to go away in one year," he said.
The long-term outlook is complicated by unprecedented warm temperatures in the western Pacific and Indian oceans from 1998 through 2002. Meteorologist Marty Hoerling said the warmer water coupled with unusually cold water in the eastern hemisphere affected the jet stream, steering storms north and away from the Southwest.