#Drought news: Topsoil moisture very short to short on the #Colorado High Plains

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


Dry weather dominated much of the country, favoring summer crop harvesting and winter wheat planting. However, topsoil moisture shortages hampered wheat emergence and establishment in a variety of regions, including portions of the Plains, lower Midwest, and interior Northwest. Meanwhile, significant short-term drought continued to grip the South, primarily from the southeastern Great Plains to the Mississippi Delta. In addition to concerns about recently planted winter wheat, Southern drought issues included stress on pastures and late-maturing summer crops; an elevated risk of wildfires; and diminishing surface-water supplies. In stark contrast, dry weather in South Carolina and environs favored flood-recovery efforts. Starting on October 16-17, widespread freezes ended the Midwestern growing season—as much as 1 to 2 weeks later than the normal first freeze in some locations. On October 18-19, freezes into the mid-Atlantic region and interior Southeast were roughly on schedule, or even a little earlier than normal. Elsewhere, a period of record-setting Western warmth preceded the arrival of a slow-moving storm system. Showers overspread California by October 15 and over the next several days reached into the Great Basin, Southwest, and Intermountain West. The Western precipitation caused local flooding, but replenished topsoil moisture, benefited rangeland and pastures, and provided limited relief from long-term drought. Significant rain began to overspread the south-central U.S. on October 21, a day after the drought-monitoring period ended, and will be reflected in next week’s U.S. Drought Monitor…

Great Plains

Mostly minor expansion of abnormal dryness (D0) and moderate drought (D1) was noted across the northern and central Plains. Conditions were not as dry as those being experienced farther south, but some impact on winter grain emergence has been reported. In Colorado, most (95%) of the winter wheat had been planted by October 18, but emergence (60%) lagged the 5-year average by 12 percentage points. On the same date, topsoil moisture was 59% very short to short in Kansas and 50% very short to short in Colorado…


Precipitation began to overspread central and southern California on October 15 and eventually reached into many other areas of the western U.S. However, extremely dry conditions persisted in much of Oregon and Washington, hampering winter crop establishment. By October 18, winter wheat emergence was at least 10 percentage points behind the 5-year average pace in Oregon (18% emerged) and Washington (62%). California led the nation with both topsoil and subsoil moisture rated 90% very short to short. Approximately two-thirds of the rangeland and pastures were rated very poor to poor in Oregon (67%) and California (65%). Finally, significant water-supply shortages—owing to the multi-year drought—were noted in Arizona, California, Nevada, and New Mexico. In the Northwest, statewide reservoir storage was also below average in Oregon, and Washington. On September 30, California’s statewide reservoir storage was 54% of the historical average for this time of year—and the second-lowest on record behind 1977.

During the drought-monitoring period, precipitation became heavy enough to result in some very minor improvements in the long-term drought depiction, primarily in Arizona and Nevada. Further refinements may be needed next week as assessments continue, especially since the storm was still in progress on October 20…

Looking Ahead

During the next 5 days, a slow-moving storm system will provide significant drought relief but possibly cause flash flooding in the south-central U.S. Five-day rainfall totals could reach at least 2 to 5 inches on the southern High Plains; 2 to 6 inches in the western Gulf Coast region; and 3 to 7 inches across the southeastern Plains. Showers will also overspread the northern and central Plains, although totals from Nebraska to the Dakotas will be mostly an inch or less. Scattered showers will also reach the Ohio Valley and the Midwest, but mostly dry weather will prevail through the weekend in the southern Atlantic States and the Far West. Outside of the storm system’s primary impact area (e.g. the south-central U.S.), warm weather will prevail nearly nationwide.

The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for October 27 – 31 calls for the likelihood of warmer-than-normal weather across Florida, Alaska, and from the Pacific Coast to the northern and central Plains and the upper Midwest. Meanwhile, near- to below-normal temperatures can be expected across much of the South, East, and lower Midwest. The last 5 days of October should feature near- to above-normal precipitation across the majority of the U.S., with the greatest likelihood of wet weather occurring across the lower Southeast. In contrast, drier-than-normal conditions should occur in western Alaska and from the northern Plains into the upper Great Lakes region.

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