Drought news: ‘Devastating drought forecast to persist through winter’ — USA Today


From USA Today (Doyle Rice):

For a massive portion of the nation — in almost every state west of the Mississippi River — drought is forecast to continue throughout the next several months: “The drought is likely to persist through the winter,” reports Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters.

Beyond the winter, the forecast gets murky: “We’re expecting persistence of the drought through the winter months and through early spring, and with the climate signals being relatively weak … it’s very difficult to really say how the spring will materialize with regard to the drought outlook,” said Jon Gottschalck, a meteorologist with the Climate Prediction Center…

Parts of every state west of the Mississippi, except for soggy Washington state, are seeing some level of drought conditions. All of six states — Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Colorado and Iowa — are entirely in a drought…

Other drought facts:

– In order for parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas to come out of their drought, they would need more than a foot of rain, according to the Climate Prediction Center.
– So far this year, Nebraska and Wyoming are enduring their driest year on record, according to the National Climatic Data Center.
– NOAA reported that a drought severity index for the primary hard red winter wheat area (located mainly in Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas) last month reached its worst reading since the 1950s.

From the Associated Press via NBCNews.com:

While more than half of the continental U.S. has been in a drought since summer, rain storms had appeared to be easing the situation week by week since late September. But that promising run ended with Wednesday’s weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report, which showed increases in the portion of the country in drought and the severity of it. The report showed that 60.1 percent of the lower 48 states were in some form of drought as of Tuesday, up from 58.8 percent the previous week. The amount of land in extreme or exceptional drought — the two worst classifications — increased from 18.3 percent to 19.04 percent…

“What’s driving the weather? It’s kind of a car with no one at the steering wheel,” [Richard Heim, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center] said. “None of the atmospheric indicators are really strong. A lot of them are tickling around the edges and fighting about who wants to be king of the hill, but none of them are dominant.”[…]

The biggest area of exceptional drought, the most severe of the five categories listed by the Drought Monitor, centers over the Great Plains. Virtually all of Nebraska is in a deep drought, with more than three-fourths in the worst stage. But Nebraska, along with the Dakotas to the north, could still see things get worse “in the near future,” the USDA’s Eric Luebehusen wrote in Wednesday’s update. The drought also has been intensifying in Kansas, the top U.S. producer of winter wheat. It also is entirely covered by drought, and the area in the worst stage rose nearly 4 percentage points to 34.5 percent as of Tuesday. Much of that increase was in southern Kansas, where rainfall has been 25 percent of normal over the past half year.

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