Drought news

US Drought monitor March 18, 2014
US Drought monitor March 18, 2014

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

Summary

During the drought-monitoring period, precipitation was mainly confined to the drought-free areas of the eastern U.S, although localized drought relief was noted across south-central portions of the nation. Meanwhile, drought persisted or intensified across the west, where alarmingly low water-year precipitation and meager mountain snowpacks continued…

Central Plains

Warm, dry weather prevailed on the central Plains, intensifying drought while accelerating winter crops out of dormancy. The unseasonably warm conditions (weekly average temperatures up to 11°F above normal) rapidly increased crop-water demands, while strong, occasionally severe winds rapidly dried topsoils and caused blowing dust. Consequently, Extreme Drought (D3) was expanded from southeastern Colorado into western Kansas, while the drought-impact type was changed from “L” (Long-Term) to “SL” (Both Short- and Long-Term) to account for greening winter crops as well as blowing dust and increased fire danger…

Southern Plains and Texas

Intensifying drought across the southern Plains and western Texas contrasted with localized drought relief in eastern portions of the region. A developing late winter storm generated widespread rain from northeastern Texas into eastern Oklahoma, with totals topping 2 to 3 inches in the wettest locations. Consequently, some drought reduction was noted, particularly where rain was heaviest. On the back side of the storm, strong, gusty winds coupled with parched soils maintained or worsened drought from western Oklahoma into central and western Texas. Several large dust storms heightened the drought’s impacts, with notable increases in Extreme Drought (D3) and Exceptional Drought (D4) over the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma. Soil moisture in these locales is virtually non-existent, with rainfall over the past 90 days locally less than 10 percent of normal…

Western U.S.

Unsettled conditions in the north contrasted with intensifying drought elsewhere. The benefits of the February and early-March precipitation rapidly diminished across California and the Southwest as unseasonable warmth and dryness increased water demands and depleted snowpacks.

In northern portions of the region, an influx of Pacific moisture generated rain and mountain snow from the Cascades into the northern Rockies. Precipitation totals were highly variable, with 2- to 5-inch totals (liquid equivalent) in the northern Cascades contrasting with amounts generally less than 1 inch over southern portions of the range. Most of the heavy precipitation fell outside of the region’s drought areas, with totals in southwestern Oregon averaging up to 2 inches below the weekly norm. Farther east, however, recent heavy snow eased Moderate Drought (D1) in southern Idaho and eliminated Abnormal Dryness (D0) in southeastern Wyoming and the northwestern tip of Nebraska.

Farther south, a disappointing water year continued, with warm, dry weather quickly negating the benefits of the precipitation from February and early March across California and the Great Basin. Most notably, Extreme Drought (D3) returned to coastal areas north of San Francisco as well as the Sierra Nevada; over the past two weeks, precipitation deficits in these areas have averaged two inches or more. Water-year (Since October 1, 2013) precipitation has averaged less than half of normal over most of California, and locally less than 30 percent of normal in the state’s D4 (Exceptional Drought) area. Severe Drought (D2) expanded across southern Nevada, where water-year precipitation has averaged 40 to 60 percent of normal.

In the Four Corners region, changes to this week’s drought depiction were confined to western portions of the region. Across western Arizona, Severe Drought (D2) expanded as water-year precipitation totals continued to drop well below half of normal (locally less than 30 percent of normal). In northern Arizona, precipitation over the past 90 days has averaged less than 25 percent of normal. Meanwhile, SNOTEL data from southwestern Utah indicated the Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) is currently in the 12th percentile or lower, with water-year precipitation totals averaging 25 to 40 percent of normal; this data was used to depict the newly-expanded D2 in the southwestern quarter of the state…

Looking Ahead

Little — if any — drought relief is expected from the Pacific Coast to the Great Plains, with precipitation during the upcoming monitoring period mostly confined to the Northeast and Gulf Coast. An area of low pressure will produce snow in northern New England on Thursday, while warmer conditions briefly develop in the storm’s wake from the middle Mississippi Valley to the central and southern Atlantic Coast. Toward week’s end, another disturbance will produce some additional snow across the nation’s northern tier. Over the weekend, cold air will surge into the Midwest and Northeast, while rain will develop across the South. Dry weather will persist, however, from California to the southern High Plains. In addition, unusually warm weather will continue to plague California. The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for March 25-29 calls for below-normal temperatures from the Plains to the East Coast, while warmer-than-normal weather will prevail in the West. Meanwhile, near- to above-normal precipitation across the majority of the U.S. will contrast with drier-than-normal conditions from southern California to the southern High Plains.

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