#Drought news: Four Corners, drought worsened in the northwest, while conditions improved somewhat in southeastern portions of the region

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

Rain across southern-most portions of the nation provided drought relief, while dry weather maintained or worsened drought from California into portions of the Rockies, Plains, and Upper Midwest. In addition, above-normal temperatures further reduced already-dire mountain snowpacks over much of the West and accelerated pasture and crop-water demands in the nation’s mid-section. Dryness also increased in the Northeast, though below-normal temperatures mitigated the impacts of the precipitation deficits…

Central Plains
Dry, unseasonably warm weather maintained or worsened drought over the central Plains. With temperatures approaching or topping 80°F from southeastern Colorado into Kansas as well as little if any rain, drought conditions remained or intensified. In particular, pronounced short-term dryness (25 to 50 percent of normal over the past 90 days) across central and southern portions of Kansas supported the expansion of Moderate (D1) to Severe Drought (D2). Soil moisture continued to decline, and many streamflows were in the 10th percentile or lower…

Northern Plains
Despite pockets of light rain, unseasonable warmth (up to 10°F above normal) coupled with increasingly dry conditions over the past 90 days led to the expansion of Abnormal Dryness (D0) and Moderate Drought (D1) in the western Dakotas. Over the past 90 days, precipitation has totaled 60 to 75 percent of normal (locally less) in the newly-expanded D0 areas of the northern Plains, while the D1 area of South Dakota has received less than 50 percent of normal precipitation. The dryness coupled with rapid snow melt and temperatures well into the 70s in South Dakota have accelerated water demands for emerging pastures and greening winter crops. In addition, reports from the field indicate dry soils are becoming an underlying issue…

Southern Plains and Texas
Worsening drought in the north contrasted with heavy rain and drought reduction in the south. Across Oklahoma and northern Texas, most areas received less than 0.5 inch of rain during the monitoring period, which coupled with daytime highs in the upper 70s and lower 80s (degrees F) afforded no relief from drought. In areas where rain was sparse or non-existent, Severe to Exceptional Drought (D2-D4) expanded as streamflows continued to decline well below the 10th percentile. Soil moisture likewise rapidly diminished as the unseasonable warmth increased crop- and pasture-water demands. Meanwhile, moderate to heavy rain (1 to 4 inches) from southern Oklahoma into central and southern Texas reduced drought coverage and intensity, with the most notable improvements occurring between San Antonio, Texas, and the Big Bend. Despite the soaking rainfall, little change was made to the drought coverage and intensity northwest of Austin, where reservoirs levels struggled to rebound due to a persistent, pronounced long-term drought…

Western U.S.
The overall trend toward drought persistence or intensification prevailed, with relief confined to a few scattered locales in the Four Corners Region and southeastern California. The west continued to cope with much-above-normal temperatures, further depleting already-dire snowpacks and reducing spring runoff prospects over much of the region.

In the north, a steady influx of Pacific moisture and weekly average temperatures up to 7°F above normal resulted in moderate to heavy showers from the Cascades into the northern Rockies. However, plentiful water-year precipitation (since October 1) in the Northwest was in sharp contrast to virtually non-existent snowpacks, with the snow-water equivalents less than 25 percent of normal (locally less than 10 percent) across Oregon as well as southern and northwestern Washington. The lack of snow maintained concerns for spring and summer water supplies despite the generally favorable 2014-15 water year.

In the Four Corners, drought worsened in the northwest while conditions improved somewhat in southeastern portions of the region. In particular, Severe to Extreme Drought (D2-D3) expanded over northern Utah to account for water-year precipitation averaging 30 to 45 percent of normal; the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) – a measure of drought severity – depicted values at or below -1.75 (D3 equivalent) in this same area . In addition, snow-water equivalents southeast of the Great Salt Lake were near or below 50 percent of normal (3-10th percentile). In New Mexico, however, improving conditions were noted in the southern Rockies, where locally more than an inch of rain and high-elevation snow afforded relief from Moderate Drought (D1).

In California, changes to this week’s depiction were generally minor as the state entered a fourth consecutive year of drought. Locally more than an inch of rain was noted in the Cascades and in the Coastal Range, but the moisture fell well short of supplying drought relief. Even with this week’s rain, precipitation deficits over the past two weeks exceeded 2 inches in these same locales. In the D4 areas of the Cascades and southern San Joaquin Valley, water-year precipitation has averaged 30 to 50 percent of normal, and locally less than 50 percent of normal over the past 3 years. Short-term moisture has been somewhat more plentiful in northern California, though even areas north of Sacramento are dealing with significant long-term precipitation deficits (70-75 percent of normal over the past three years) that will take considerable time to erase. Despite the generally worsening conditions, a small reduction in Extreme Drought (D3) was made in southeastern California’s Mojave Desert, where the wildflower bloom has responded favorably to showers…

Looking Ahead
Warm, mostly dry weather over the west will contrast with chilly, wet conditions east of the Mississippi Valley. The greatest likelihood for drought-easing rainfall will be from Texas and the northern Delta into the Northeast. Spotty showers are expected over the Rockies and Northwest, though the light rain coupled with persistent warmth will not ease drought or aid spring runoff prospects. Mostly dry, warm weather is expected over California and the Southwest. The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for March 3 – April 4 calls for near- to above-normal temperatures nationwide, except for colder-than-normal conditions across the nation’s northeastern quadrant. Meanwhile, above-normal precipitation from the northern Plains and Upper Midwest into the Great Lakes and Northeast will contrast with drier-than-normal conditions in the south, particularly from California into the Four Corners and southern Plains.

From Arizona Republic:

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast predicts drought will persist or worsen in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and western Colorado through June.

“Periods of record warmth in the West and not enough precipitation during the rainy season cut short drought relief in California this winter, and prospects for above-average temperatures for this spring may make the situation worse,” said Jon Gottschalck, with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah and Washington had their warmest winters on record, Gottschalck said.

Above-average temperatures are expected to continue this spring in the Far West and northern Rocky Mountains.

Above-average precipitation is predicted for parts of the Southwest and the southern and central Rockies.

The above-average precipitation predicted for Colorado over the next three months could reduce drought conditions in the southeast part of the state. The moisture could ease the fire season, Gottschalck said, but also could increase undergrowth that worsens the situation…

Thursday’s NOAA spring forecast is the most recent in a series of grim reports on the drought.

Last month, scientists from NASA and Columbia and Cornell universities published a study predicting a better than 80 percent chance of a “megadrought,” one lasting at least 35 years, hitting the Southwest and central Great Plains in the second half of this century.

From KJCT8.com (Makenzie O’Keefe):

The United States Drought Monitor is claiming Western Colorado is currently undergoing a moderate drought, but the National Weather Service disagrees – saying we aren’t seeing those effects just yet.

According to the Drought Monitor, a moderate drought means there can be some damage to crops or streams, as well as some water shortages developing.

The National Weather Service says within the past few months we have actually seen more precipitation here in Grand Junction than in past years.

That being said, snowpack levels right now are showing that we are trending towards more of a drought in upcoming weeks which could be more dangerous.

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