#Drought news: According to @USDA, topsoil moisture was rated at least one-half very short to short in #Colorado (68%), #Wyoming (65%), #Nebraska (52%)

Click on a thumbnail graphic below to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor.

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

This Week’s Drought Summary

Category 2 Hurricane Sally made landfall on September 16 near Gulf Shores, Alabama, around 4:45 am CDT, with sustained winds near 105 mph. Torrential rainfall across southern Alabama and western Florida sparked major to record flooding, while wind-related damage and power outages were common. Once inland over the Southeast, Sally quickly weakened but continued to produce heavy rain, extending as far north as southern Virginia. Mostly dry weather covered the remainder of the country, except for showers in the Pacific Northwest and heavy rain in the western Gulf Coast region associated with the arrival of Tropical Storm Beta along the middle Texas coast. Beta, the 23rd named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season—behind only 28 tropical cyclones in 2005—made landfall at 10:00 pm CDT on September 21 near Port O’Connor, Texas, with sustained winds near 45 mph. Meanwhile, drought remained entrenched across much of the western half of the country and parts of the Northeast. In the latter region, growing season-ending freezes (starting September 19) may limit re-growth of drought-stressed pastures, even if widespread precipitation returns during autumn. Western wildfires continued to degrade air quality across a vast area, with approximately six dozen fires in various stages of containment by September 22…

High Plains

Western portions of the High Plains continued to experience serious drought impacts, including severely stressed rangeland and limited soil moisture for the germination and establishment of recently planted winter wheat. On September 20, according to USDA, topsoil moisture was rated at least one-half very short to short in Colorado (68%), Wyoming (65%), Nebraska (52%), and South Dakota (51%). On the same date, Wyoming led the region with rangeland and pastures rated 71% very poor to poor, followed by Colorado at 51%. Colorado led the nation—among major production states—in very poor to poor ratings for corn (35%). Most of the region’s weekly changes indicated worsening drought, amid mostly dry weather and above-normal temperatures…


Much-needed precipitation began to overspread the Pacific Northwest, signaling the change in seasons that should eventually deliver drought relief. For now, though, the Northwestern precipitation merely stabilized conditions in some areas and aided wildfire containment efforts. The Northwestern rain led to a daily-record sum of 1.14 inches on September 18 in smoke-plagued Eugene, Oregon. The National Weather Service office in Seattle, Washington, reported a record-setting total (1.35 inches) for September 19. However, the remainder of the West remained mostly dry. Ground reports and the Vegetation Health Index (VHI) continued to indicate severe stress on native vegetation, as well as rangeland. Very poor to poor ratings were indicated by USDA on September 20 on at least 40% of rangeland and pastures in every Western State except Idaho, led by Oregon (84% very poor to poor). On the same date, topsoil moisture was at least 60% very short to short in every Western State except Arizona, led by New Mexico (91% very short to short). Water Year 2020 (October 1, 2019 – September 30, 2020) will soon end, with preliminary summaries indicating a dire drought situation in much of the region and some areas continuing to observe drought expansion or intensification. More than six dozen wildfires remained active across the West, with the greatest concentration of fires (and poor air quality) persisting in the Pacific Coast States. The latest wildfires to surpass 100,000 acres of vegetation burned were both in California: Bobcat Fire, northeast of Pasadena, less than 20% contained, and the August Complex West Zone, near Covelo, about 40% contained…


Tropical Storm Beta made landfall on September 21 along the middle Texas coast, resulting in eradication of dryness (D0) and moderate drought (D1) in the western Gulf Coast region. Torrential rain fell mainly north of Beta’s center of circulation, including parts of the Houston metropolitan area. Numerous reports of at least 10 inches of rain were received from Harris County, Texas, where Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport netted 12.24 inches from September 20-22. Farther inland, additional improvements were introduced across central Texas in the wake of last week’s heavy rain, as drought impacts further faded. Meanwhile, a pesky area of dryness (D0) and moderate drought (D1) remained centered over Mississippi, with some further intensification noted. On September 20, USDA topsoil moisture in Mississippi was rated 56% very short to short. September 1-22 rainfall totals in Mississippi included 0.10 inch (5% of normal in Vicksburg and 0.22 inch (9%) in Meridian. (September 23-24 rainfall in Mississippi and neighboring states associated with the remnants of Beta fell too late to be considered for this week’s report.) Elsewhere, ongoing dry weather in western sections of Texas and Oklahoma led to some modest expansion of dryness (D0) and moderate to extreme drought (D1 to D3). For the year to date through September 22, precipitation in Midland, Texas, has totaled just 6.84 inches (62% of normal). Dalhart, Texas, is faring about as poorly, with 8.81 inches (60% of normal) falling from January 1 – September 22. The Vegetation Health Index (VHI) indicates that rangeland and pastures are significantly stressed across large sections of the southern High Plains, including much of western Texas…

Looking Ahead

The remnants of Tropical Storm Beta will drift generally northeastward and continue to weaken, although additional Southeastern rainfall could total 3 to 5 inches or more. Meanwhile, a series of cold fronts will cross the Midwest, generating scattered showers. Some of the most significant rain, 1 to 2 inches over the next 5 days, should fall in the vicinity of the Great Lakes. Farther west, mostly dry weather will continue during the next 5 days from California to the Plains and middle Mississippi Valley. In the Northwest, however, frequent showers—especially west of the Cascades—should provide relief from a dry summer and aid wildfire containment efforts. Aside from a surge of cool air into the Northwest, much of the country will experience near- or above-normal temperatures during the next several days.

The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for September 29 – October 3 calls for the likelihood of above-normal temperatures in Maine and throughout the West, while cooler-than-normal conditions will cover most of the eastern half of the country. Meanwhile, near- or below-normal precipitation across most of the nation should contrast with wetter-than-normal weather in southern Florida and from the Great Lakes region into the northern and middle Atlantic States.

US Drought Monitor one week change map September 22, 2020.

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