PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The parched American West has seen a drastic level of drought recovery in recent weeks as it reels from a 20-plus-year “megadrought.”

Oregon state climatologist Larry O’Neill told KOIN 6 that the improving drought conditions are thanks to a recent wave of storms that have brought heavy rain and snowfall to the region.

“We’ve seen great decreases in drought severity and extent in many areas of the West due to the series of nine atmospheric-river storms that mainly targeted the Southwest and Nevada,” O’Neill said. “While it will take multiple years to recover from the drought, this is as good a start to drought recovery as we could have hoped for.”

Drought improvement in the Western U.S. between Jan. 3 (left) and Jan. 17 (right). | (U.S. Drought Monitor)

Extremely drought-stricken parts of Southern Oregon were among the areas that benefited from the string of storms. However, the region is still experiencing various forms of drought after an especially dry three-year period.

“Much of Oregon is actually running below average for precipitation since last October, and this is a concerning sign for water supply as we head into spring since many of these areas are still feeling the impacts of drought from the last few years,” O’Neill said. “The snowpack in Oregon started off great through December, but has stalled, particularly in the central Oregon Cascades. We’ll need much more snow and cool weather in the next couple of months to stave off worsening drought conditions.”

America’s short-term (left) and long-term (right) drought conditions. (NOAA)

Data provided by the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that areas of Southern Oregon have moved from the “extreme drought” stage to the “severe drought” stage. Most of Eastern Oregon also shifted from the severe drought to the “moderate” drought stage. 

California has seen the most radical drought improvement in recent weeks. According to government data, all regions of the state are now out of the extreme drought stage. Central California, Nevada, Northern Utah, Southern Wyoming and Northwest Colorado have all seen a complete weather reversal in 2023, where short-term drought conditions have been deemed as exceptionally wet.