Widespread rains fuel drought relief in the heartland, but...

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click image to zoomDrought MonitorThe Drought Monitor map released on June 19, 2014. More wet weather fueled improvement in drought conditions across the central and northern Plains, but the same can’t be said further to the south or west.

According to the Drought Monitor report, Nebraska and Iowa in particular reaped the benefits of this week’s rainy weather. Six percent of Iowa and 29 percent of Nebraska are in moderate or worse drought, down 15 and 4 percentage points respectively from last week’s report.

The drought relief came at a high price with tornadoes, hail and torrential rain.

Kansas also reported big improvements in drought conditions this week. Twenty-one percent of the state is in extreme drought, down from 32 percent reported on June 12. This is also a major improvement from last year’s report, when 45 percent was reported in extreme or worse drought.

Looking in the south, Texas and Oklahoma both reported some improvements in drought conditions, though both are still firmly rooted drought. Forty-eight percent of Oklahoma and 22 percent of Texas are in extreme or exceptional drought.

Further to the west, the vast majority of California has seen no rain over the last 14 days, and more of the state is moving from extreme to exceptional drought. Read the full Drought Monitor report here.

The hot year is only worsening drought conditions.

Jake Crouch, a climate scientist with the National Climatic Data Center, told reporters in a conference call that through the first five months of the year, "temperatures in California have been about 5 degrees above average.”

 Read, “California steaming: State's hot year worsens drought.”

The National Water and Climate Center issued the final water supply forecast of the year, and expects streamflows far below normal for southern parts of Oregon and Utah, southwestern Idaho, California, Arizona, New Mexico and western Nevada.

Drought help for California and the southern Plains may be lingering on the horizon, and though initial reports suggested the rise of a “Super El Nino,” new data suggest that it may be a moderate or even weak event instead.

NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins says he is “betting we end up with a low-end moderate El Nino.”

According to Karins, the "biggest unknown" is whether El Nino rains will help drought areas in the Southwest and West.

El Ninos have dumped heavy rain across the West before, but usually those El Ninos have been “quite strong,” Tony Barnston, chief forecaster at Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society, said.

See, "Odds Against Formation of a 'Super El Nino,' Experts Say."

The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook, released by the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center on Thursday, expects the drought to improve or be eliminated in many areas currently experience deep in drought, with the exceptions of California and parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Click here for more.

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