#Drought news: Most areas remain unchanged in #Colorado, late start to the North American #Monsoon

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


Heavy rain – 3.5 to locally over 8.0 inches – dowsed much of the dry area in Tennessee, eliminating most of the abnormally dry area, though a few patches remain in central and northern parts of the state. In contrast, most areas in the lower Mississippi Valley and southern Great Plains recorded little or no rainfall, with moderate to isolated heavy amounts limited to parts of central Oklahoma, western Texas, and the Louisiana Bayou. The rains brought regions of improvement (but not broad-scale relief) to western Texas, including the Big Bend. Farther north, a re-assessment of conditions led to some improvement being introduced in the Texas Panhandle (especially northern sections) and eastern parts of the Oklahoma Panhandle and adjacent western Oklahoma. Meanwhile, the dry and hot week prompted substantial deterioration across central and eastern Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and (to a lesser extent) eastern Oklahoma. As a result, moderate to severe drought became more widespread, especially in a swath from southern to northeastern Texas. San Antonio, TX reported just over 2 inches of rain for April-June 2018, compared to a normal of over 10.6 inches (third driest such period in 134 years of record). Also, grass fires have become unusually common across the Dallas-Ft. Worth metro area. In southwestern Texas, to the north and northwest of Laredo, a broad area of extreme drought (D3) was introduced, with an area of exceptional drought (D4) introduced in part of this region along the Rio Grande River. Most of the new D3 area recorded only 2 to 4 inches of rain in the last 90 days, and 3-month totals of only 0.5 to 1.5 inches (with widely isolated higher amounts) were recorded in the new D4 region…

High Plains

In Colorado and Wyoming, most areas remained unchanged; most of Wyoming remained out of dryness, and conditions worsen progressively moving south, with extreme to exceptional drought covering southern Colorado. Deficient precipitation and enhanced evaporative loss over the past few months led to limited expansion of D0 and D1 in areas near the central part of the border. Farther east, dryness led to some deterioration in Kansas. D3 pushed into part of south-central Kansas while extreme drought expanded into a larger part of northeastern Kansas. In the Dakotas, very heavy rains and flooding late in the period covered a swath across east-central South Dakota, leading to a band of 1- to 2-category improvement, with southern reaches of the old D2 area climbing to D0. This area will have to be assessed next week to get a better sense of how this intense rainfall episode changed the drought situation there. Moderate to heavy rains (but only isolated minor flooding) pelted western North Dakota as well, prompting the removal of abnormal dryness over much of the western part of the state. Small-scale improvements were made in a few other dry areas where rain was heaviest…


Outside the withdrawal of D0 from a small area in northeast Montana, where most locations recorded between one and two inches of rain, the Drought Monitor depiction is unchanged from the previous week. Significant rains from the Southwest Monsoon have yet to reach most of Arizona, and only scattered locations across southern and eastern New Mexico recorded over an inch of rain this past week. But a late start to the monsoon is hardly unusual, and conditions do not warrant drought degradation yet…

Looking Ahead

For the remainder of this week (through July 8, 2018), moderate precipitation (0.5 to 1.2 inches) is forecast across a broad area in the southeastern Great Plains, the Ohio and lower half of the Mississippi River Valleys, and the Eastern Seaboard. Heavy rain (2 to locally 5 inches) is forecast in southeastern Texas and the southern tier of Louisiana, and amounts could reach 2 inches in eastern Pennsylvania and southwestern Florida. Farther west, moderate to heavy rain (0.5 to locally 2.5 inches) is forecast for parts of the central and northeastern Great Plains, and far northern Mississippi Valley. Rainfall should be light with isolated moderate totals in the rest of the country east of the Rockies while little or no rain is expected from the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean. Average daily minimum temperatures should be above-normal throughout the contiguous states, with the largest departures (6 to 10 degrees F) expected in the southern Rockies, parts of the Great Basin and northern Great Plains, and throughout the Ohio Valley and Northeast. Daily high temperatures will not differ as far from normal, with 5-day anomalies exceeding 3 degrees F more than normal limited to the Northwest, the Intermountain West, most of the Rockies, the Great Lakes, and New England. The subsequent 5-day period (July 9-13, 2018), Odds favor above-normal rainfall in central and southern sections of California, the Intermountain West (including the Great Basin), and the Rockies, with surplus precipitation most likely in northern Arizona. Farther east, wet weather is also favored in the lower Mississippi Valley, most of the Southeast, the southern and eastern Ohio Valley, and the middle Atlantic States. Southern Alaska also has enhanced chances for above-normal precipitation. In contrast, subnormal rainfall is favored from central and southern Texas northward through the Plains, the western Great Lakes, the northern Intermountain West, and the Pacific Northwest. Temperatures are expected to average above normal across most of the contiguous states, with the exceptions of southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and part of southern Alaska, where cooler than normal conditions seem more likely.

From The Fence Post (Amy G. Hadachek):

While the hardest hit areas are southwest Colorado, northern New Mexico, as well as the Texas Panhandle (especially around Amarillo,) and the western one-third of Oklahoma including the Oklahoma Panhandle, there is at least some encouraging news in the longer range forecasts for rain.

First, the southwest states, and reasons why drought conditions began.

“The San Juan River in extreme northwest New Mexico is at the bottom 10th percentile for this time of year. However, if you look at the upper portions of the Pecos River (north of Lake Santa Rosa), and the upper portions of the Rio Grande, near Taos, they are both at record low flows for this time of year. This is directly attributable to the lack of snowfall/lack of snowpack this year, and the lack of subsequent run off,” said Victor Murphy, climate services program manager, National Weather Service Southern Region.

Western Colorado is (also) really hurting right now with regard to streamflows and hydrologic conditions. “Nearly all streamflows are in the bottom 10 percentile for this time of year, with some at record lows for this time of year,” Murphy said.

Streamflows are low because of the poor spring runoff season after the low snowpack started melting.

“Water supplies, normally at their highest in June due to re-charge from snowmelt and runoff, were not adequately replenished, and they could experience more stress through the high demand summer season,” said Becky Bolinger, Ph.D., assistant state climatologist at the Colorado Climate Center-Colorado State University in Fort Collins, during the June 25 webinar.


Western states count on a strong monsoon season (which is a seasonal reversal of the wind pattern that typically brings moisture up and into the four corners’ states of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. “However, the poor monsoon season late last summer triggered the launch into drought conditions. This was also followed by the dry, warm beginning of (what is typically) the ‘snow accumulating’ season. By January, the higher elevations were experiencing what some may refer to as a snow drought. Many mountain locations in central Utah, western Colorado and northern New Mexico reported their lowest seasonal peak snowpack on record,” Bolinger said.

Since the beginning of what’s known as “the water year,” (October 2017 through May of this year,) most of the four corners have seen much below-average precipitation and much above-average temperatures, with some locations experiencing their record driest and/or record warmest water year, to date.

“In the southwest U.S., (Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California,) over 68 percent of the area is experiencing drought conditions according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Almost 32 percent of the region is experiencing extreme (D3) or exceptional (D4) drought conditions. Exceptional drought is focused over the four corners area and extends into central Arizona and across northern New Mexico,” Bolinger said.

These levels of drought conditions are ranked in the bottom fifth percentile or lower. “That means that typically in 100 years, only five years or less would be considered worse.”


“All of the four corners states have widespread fire restrictions. A greater than average number of wildfires is anticipated, due to longer term drought conditions and short-term dry and windy weather,” Bolinger said. She said this wildfire season has affected the recreation industry with the widespread National Forest closures in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. “Future impacts are expected to include the increased risk of flash flooding, as burned areas change the land cover. The vegetation can no longer take in the water, and so the ground develops a sort of ‘repellent’ barrier that increases runoff and causes flooding,” Bolinger said.


There is however, some encouraging news that the summer monsoon should begin in earnest in the next one to two weeks. “This should greatly alleviate this,” Murphy said during the second webinar on June 27, which was also hosted by the team of National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s National Integrated Drought Information System and the National Weather Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Drought Mitigation Center, and the American Association of State Climatologists. But Murphy said, if the monsoon under-performs, then going forward into the cold season, all eyes will then turn to the developing El Niño climate pattern to provide relief. El Niño, (formally called the El Niño Southern Oscillation,) is the opposite of La Niña.

One note of caution, this forthcoming monsoon could be good for alleviating drought conditions, Bolinger said. “In areas where spotty thunderstorms occur though, the risk of lightning starting a wildfire will be high. And in localized burn areas, there will be an increased risk of flooding.”


Drought impacts include reduced forage and pasture, livestock herd reduction and the high fire danger. The combination of heat and lack of precipitation is stressing crops and threatening yields this year. “While recent pockets of heavy rain in south and west Texas, the Oklahoma Panhandle, and southwest Kansas provided some local relief, however dry conditions and record-high heat have expanded severe drought conditions in southeast Oklahoma and northeast Texas. These recent rains resulted in significant drought improvement in parts of western Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle,” Murphy said. “However, areas on the periphery (around Amarillo, and in far southwest Oklahoma along the Red River) are still in extreme drought (D3) and still in need of improvement. Short-term drought and above average temperatures could tip them back to D4 if rainfall doesn’t materialize in July.”


The Climate Prediction Center has issued an El Niño Watch as of June 14. “By the fall, there is a greater than 50 percent chance that an El Niño will develop, and is expected to be of moderate strength in the fall and winter,” Bolinger said.

While the southwest drought conditions developed because of the La Niña occurring last fall and winter, an El Niño may help shift the pattern. “Check out http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/enso/climaterisks to see what is statistically likely during an El Niño fall and winter,” Bolinger said. “In both seasons, most of the region (in the four corners and extending toward the eastern plains, but especially to the south) there’s a better likelihood for wet extremes to occur and it’s less likely that they’d see dry extremes during this time. More wet extremes and fewer dry extremes could help chip away at the drought around the four corners. Unfortunately, that pattern weakens as you move north, when you reach Wyoming and northern Utah, that pattern is opposite and we would expect to see an increased chance of dry extremes occurring.”


“Drought is never really over, especially in the western states,” said Elizabeth Weight, regional drought information coordinator for NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System. “Drought stresses ecological systems, so it can take years to recover from a prolonged drought that inflicts damage on grasslands, forests, streams and aquifers. So, we need to shift from reactive crisis mode to longer-term drought planning through, for example, investing in good soil management practices, managing groundwater resources for the long-term, state-level drought planning that supports farmers and ranchers, and in better drought predictions and forecasting.”

The webinars, which are seminars presented live on the internet, were also recorded, and are available on http://www.drought.gov.

Meanwhile, down in the Arkansas River Basin at Beulah:

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