‘New Mexico drought forecast looks bad, but hey, at least we’re not as bad off as California!’ — John Fleck

US Drought Monitor January 14, 2014
US Drought Monitor January 14, 2014

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

Central Plains
Rain, ice, and snow in eastern portions of the region contrasted with mostly dry weather on the central High Plains, where Severe to locally Exceptional Drought (D2-D4) persist. Much of the Central Plains’ Extreme Drought (D3) has received less than half of normal precipitation over the past 90 days, while precipitation totals in the D4 area of southeastern Colorado during the same period are less than 30 percent of normal (locally less than 20 percent). These same Exceptional Drought areas are also exhibiting extremely low (D4-equivalent) Standardized Precipitation Indices (SPI) dating back over the past 24 to 36 months, highlighting the ongoing long-term component to the central Plains’ drought as well…

Southern Plains and Texas
Despite a pair of storms brushing the region, most of the core drought areas of Texas and the southern Plains remained dry. Rain, ice, and snow (0.25 to 1.50 inches) were limited to eastern-most portions of Texas and Oklahoma, offering little in the way of drought relief. Short- and long-term drought is prevalent from northern Texas into central Oklahoma, where 90-day precipitation has totaled 50 percent of normal or less (locally less than 30 percent of normal). Topsoil and subsoil moisture remained extremely limited across much of north-central Texas and neighboring portions of Oklahoma; soil moisture percentile rankings are in the 5th percentile or lower in the Extreme and Exceptional Drought (D3-D4) areas of the southern Plains. The drought continues to take a toll on Texas’ winter wheat, which was rated 38 percent very poor to poor as of January 12. In southeastern Texas, areas that mostly missed the past week’s 1-inch rainfall were included in the expanded D0 area (Abnormally Dry) to reflect drier-than-normal conditions over the past 60 days (50 to 60 percent of normal) and increasingly low soil moisture (10th percentile or lower)…

Western U.S.
Despite the arrival of rain and high-elevation snow in the Northwest, drought persisted or intensified across the region. The most notable drought increases were from central California into the Pacific Northwest.

In northern portions of the region, a surge of Pacific moisture generated rain and mountain snow from the Cascades into the northern Rockies. Precipitation totals were highly variable, with 2- to 7-inch totals (liquid equivalent) in the northern Cascades contrasting with amounts generally less than 2 inches over southern portions of the range. Despite the moisture, the post-event statistics highlighted the intensifying drought in the region. The updated water-year precipitation totals stood at a meager 15 to 25 percent of normal in the Salmon Mountains of northwestern California, 25 to 55 percent in western Oregon, while northern portions of the Cascades (Washington) averaged 55 to 85 percent of normal precipitation for the water year. Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) in the Cascades of Oregon averaged 10 to 35 percent of normal, while the mountains of western Washington fared slightly better (30 to 60 percent of normal). Consequently, Severe Drought (D2) was expanded northward — despite the precipitation — to account for SWE rankings in the 15th percentile or lower (locally below the 5th percentile). SWE rankings in the eastern portions of Washington’s Cascades are likewise mostly in the 20th percentile or lower (locally in the lowest 5th percentile), reflecting the abnormally warm weather which has resulted in much of the precipitation falling as rain. Moderate Drought (D1) was also expanded across the Columbia River Valley in northern Oregon and central Washington due to increasing short-term dryness (water-year precipitation at 20 to 45 percent of normal) and declining soil moisture.

Farther south, a disappointing water year continued, with warm, dry weather firmly entrenched from central and southern California into the Great Basin. Most notably, Extreme Drought (D3) expanded across much of central and northern California into northwestern Nevada. Water-year precipitation in most of the D3 area was now less than 20 percent of normal, with locales from the southern San Joaquin Valley to the Pacific Coast reporting less than 10 percent of normal. Mountain snowpacks in the Sierra Nevada continued to dwindle as well, with SWE averaging between 10 and 30 percent of normal (10th percentile or lower, with many locations now in the bottom 5th percentile). Soil moisture across the northern two-thirds of California remained in very short supply, with similar moisture shortages noted in northwestern Nevada.

In the Four Corners region, changes to this week’s drought depiction were minimal. Minor increases were noted in D0 (Abnormal Dryness) across southwestern Colorado, while locally heavy precipitation (1 to 2 inches liquid equivalent, locally more) led to some D0 reduction in north-central Colorado. Otherwise the region remained mostly in a holding pattern with respect to drought intensification, with drought concerns most pronounced (water-year precipitation less than 50 percent of normal) from southeastern Arizona into central and eastern New Mexico. [ed. emphasis mine][…]

Looking Ahead
Little — if any — drought relief is expected from the Plains to the Pacific Coast states, with precipitation during the upcoming monitoring period mostly confined to the northeastern quarter of the nation. A stronger-than-normal ridge of high pressure will span from the Canadian Rockies into the Southwest, maintaining dry, warmer-than-normal weather across much of the west. Temperatures will regularly top the 60-degree mark as far north as the central High Plains, and will exceed 80°F in the Desert Southwest. Farther east, a modest surge of cool air into the eastern one-third of the U.S. will be followed by another round of below-normal temperatures across the Midwest and East toward week’s end. On Wednesday night and Thursday, a high-wind event can be expected across the northern and central Plains and the western Corn Belt, while blizzard conditions will affect the Red River Valley. The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for January 21-25 calls for near- to below-normal temperatures from the Mississippi Valley to the East Coast, while warmer-than-normal weather will continue from the Pacific Coast to the Plains. Meanwhile, near-normal precipitation from the Great Lakes region into the Northeast will contrast with drier-than-normal conditions across the remainder of the country.

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