Assessing the U.S. #Climate in May 2021 — NOAA

Grand Prismatic Spring Yellowstone National Park. Photo credit: Pixabay via NOAA

From NOAA:

May was mild across much of the contiguous U.S.; heavy rainfall contributed to flash flooding across parts of the Gulf Coast

For May, the average contiguous U.S. temperature was 60.4°F, 0.2°F above the 20th-century average, ranking in the middle third of the 127-year record. The meteorological spring (March-May) average temperature for the Lower 48 was 52.6°F, 1.7°F above average, ranking in the warmest third of the record. Averaged over the first five months of the year, the contiguous U.S. temperature was 44.6°F, 1.3°F above the 20th-century average, ranking in the warmest third of the January-May record.

The May precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 2.94 inches, 0.03 inch above average, ranking in the middle third of the 127-year period of record. The spring precipitation total was 7.53 inches, 0.41 inch below average, ranking in the driest third of the March-May record and was the driest spring since 2006. The year-to-date precipitation total was 11.65 inches, 0.74 inch below average, ranking in the driest third of the 127-year record. This was the driest such year-to-date period since 2012.

Torrential rainfall, associated with slow-moving thunderstorms across parts of coastal Texas and Louisiana on May 17-18, brought widespread flash flooding and power outages, and resulted in hundreds of water rescues. More than a foot of rain fell near Lake Charles, Louisiana, still recovering from damage caused by Hurricanes Laura and Delta, which made landfall across the region last summer.

This monthly summary from NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, business, academia and the public to support informed decision-making.


  • Temperatures were below average across portions of the northern Rockies as well as the central and southern Plains, central Gulf Coast, Southeast, and into the Ohio Valley.
    Temperatures were above average across parts of the West Coast, Southwest, New England and Florida.
  • The Alaska average May temperature was 40.2°F, 2.4°F above the long-term mean, which ranked in the warmest third of the historical record for the state. Temperatures were cooler than average across parts of the Panhandle. Temperatures were above average across much of the western, central and southern portions of Alaska.
    • Aided by near- to below-average spring temperatures in the region, Bering Sea ice average extent during May was the highest since 2013, but still lower than average levels observed during the 20th century.


  • Precipitation was above average from the central and western Gulf Coast into portions of the central Plains and scattered across parts of the northern Rockies and southern New England. Louisiana and Texas ranked fifth wettest on record for May.
  • Precipitation was below average across much of the West, portions of the northern Plains, Great Lakes, northern New England, mid-Atlantic and Southeast. California ranked fourth driest while Utah and Florida ranked ninth driest during May.
  • Despite precipitation across Alaska ranking near average for May, much of western Alaska was drier than average, and eastern Alaska wetter than average.
  • According to the June 1U.S. Drought Monitor report, 43.7 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, down about 4.7 percent from the end of April. Drought intensified and/or expanded across California, Oregon, Washington, the northern Plains, parts of the Great Lakes and across Puerto Rico and Hawaii. Drought emerged across portions of the eastern Carolinas and Virginia. Drought severity lessened across portions of the Rocky Mountains and Northeast and drought was mostly eliminated across the central and southern Plains.

Other Notable Events

Tropical Storm Ana formed in the Atlantic Ocean on May 22, making 2021 the seventh consecutive year in which a named storm formed before the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season on June 1.

Spring (March-May)

  • Temperatures were above average across much of the West and from the northern and central Plains to the Northeast and along much of the East Coast. Maine ranked seventh warmest for spring. No state across the Lower 48 ranked below average for the season.
  • The Alaska spring temperature was 24.4°F, 0.5°F above the long-term average, ranking in the middle third of the record for the state. This was the coolest spring across Alaska since 2013. Temperatures were above average across the Aleutians and portions of northern Alaska and below average across parts of eastern-interior Alaska.


  • Spring precipitation was above average from the central High Plains to the Mississippi River and south to the Gulf of Mexico. Louisiana ranked fourth wettest for the season.
  • Precipitation during March-May was below average across much of the West, Great Lakes and East Coast. Idaho, Oregon and the state of Washington ranked second driest for the spring season while California ranked fourth driest.

Year-to-date (January-May)

  • Temperatures for the year-to-date period were above average across much of the West, northern Plains, Great Lakes, Northeast and Florida. Maine ranked fifth warmest on record for the January-May period. Below-average temperatures were concentrated across portions of the southern Plains.
  • The Alaska year-to-date temperature was 17.0°F, 1.2°F above average, ranking in the middle third of the historical record. Temperatures were above average across the Aleutians, Bristol Bay, Northwest Gulf and portions of the southern West Coast regions. There were no large areas of below-average temperatures for the year-to-date period across Alaska.


  • Above-average precipitation prevailed across much of the central and southern Plains as well as the western and central Gulf Coast.
  • Below-average precipitation for the year-to-date period occurred across much of the West, Northern Tier, Northeast and Florida. North Dakota and Michigan ranked seventh driest while Utah ranked eighth driest.

USDA to Invest More Than $4 Billion to Strengthen Food System

Research technician and Grand County rancher Wendy Thompson collects hay samples as part of a far-reaching experiment to see if ranchers can fallow hay meadows and conserve more water for the Colorado River. Credit: Dave Timko, This American Land. Aug. 12, 2020 via Water Education Colorado

Here’s the release from the USDA:

Citing lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and recent supply chain disruptions, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced plans to invest more than $4 billion to strengthen critical supply chains through the Build Back Better initiative. The new effort will strengthen the food system, create new market opportunities, tackle the climate crisis, help communities that have been left behind, and support good-paying jobs throughout the supply chain. Today’s announcement supports the Biden Administration’s broader work on strengthening the resilience of critical supply chains as directed by Executive Order 14017 America’s Supply Chains. Funding is provided by the American Rescue Plan Act and earlier pandemic assistance such as the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

Secretary Vilsack was also named co-chair of the Administration’s new Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force. The Task Force will provide a whole of government response to address near-term supply chain challenges to the economic recovery. The Task Force will convene stakeholders to diagnose problems and surface solutions—large and small, public or private—that could help alleviate bottlenecks and supply constraints related to the economy’s reopening after the Administration’s historic vaccination and economic relief efforts.

USDA will invest more than $4 billion to strengthen the food system, support food production, improved processing, investments in distribution and aggregation, and market opportunities. Through the Build Back Better initiative, USDA will help to ensure the food system of the future is fair, competitive, distributed, and resilient; supports health with access to healthy, affordable food; ensures growers and workers receive a greater share of the food dollar; and advances equity as well as climate resilience and mitigation. While the Build Back Better initiative addresses near- and long-term issues, recent events have exposed the immediate need for action. With attention to competition and investments in additional small- and medium-sized meat processing capacity, the Build Back Better initiative will spur economic opportunity while increasing resilience and certainty for producers and consumers alike.

“The COVID-19 pandemic led to massive disruption for growers and food workers. It exposed a food system that was rigid, consolidated, and fragile. Meanwhile, those growing, processing and preparing our food are earning less each year in a system that rewards size over all else,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The Build Back Better initiative will make meaningful investments to build a food system that is more resilient against shocks, delivers greater value to growers and workers, and offers consumers an affordable selection of healthy food produced and sourced locally and regionally by farmers and processors from diverse backgrounds. I am confident USDA’s investments will spur billions more in leveraged funding from the private sector and others as this initiative gains traction across the country. I look forward to getting to work as co-chair of the new Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force and help to mobilize a whole-of-government effort to address the short-term supply challenges our country faces as it recovers.”

The Build Back Better Initiative will strengthen and transform critical parts of the U.S. food system. As it makes investments through this initiative, USDA will also seek to increase transparency and competition with attention to how certain types of conduct in the livestock markets and the meat processing sector have resulted in thinly-traded markets and unfair treatment of some farmers, ranchers and small processors. Among other investments in the food system and food supply chain, Build Back Better will specifically address the shortage of small meat processing facilities across the country as well as the necessary local and regional food system infrastructure needed to support them.

Funding announcements under the Build Back Better initiative will include a mix of grants, loans, and innovative financing mechanisms for the following priorities, each of which includes mechanisms to tackle the climate crisis and help communities that have been left behind, including:

  1. Food Production: Food production relies on growers, including farmers and ranchers, workers, and critical inputs. But a diminishing share of the food dollar goes to these essential workers. USDA will invest in the current and future generation of food producers and workers throughout the food system with direct assistance, grants, training and technical assistance, and more.
  2. Food Processing: The pandemic highlighted challenges with consolidated processing capacity. It created supply bottlenecks, which led to a drop in effective plant and slaughter capacity. Small and midsize farmers often struggled to compete for processing access. USDA will make investments to support new and expanded regional processing capacity.
  3. Food Distribution & Aggregation: Food aggregation and distribution relies on people working together throughout the food system and having the right infrastructure to gather, move and hold the food where and when it is needed. This system was stressed during the pandemic due to long shipping distances and lack of investment in local and regional capacity. USDA will make investments in food system infrastructure that can remain resilient, flexible and responsive.
  4. Markets & Consumers: The U.S. spends more on health care and less on food than any other high-income nation; yet the U.S. has higher rates of diet-related illness and a lower life expectancy than those nations. At the same time, many socially disadvantaged and small and mid-sized producers do not have equitable access to markets. USDA will support new and expanded access to markets for a diversity of growers while helping eaters access healthy foods.

USDA will continue to make announcements through the Build Back Better initiative in the months to come. Today’s announcement is in addition to the $1 billion announced last week to purchase healthy food for food insecure Americans and build food bank capacity, putting the total announced thus far at more than $5 billion.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit

Mount Werner #Water to begin major infrastructure project June 14 — The Steamboat Pilot & Today

The Yampa River Core Trail runs right through downtown Steamboat. Photo credit City of Steamboat Springs.

From Mount Werner Water & Sanitation via The Steamboat Pilot & Today:

Beginning June 14, Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District is making major infrastructure improvements that will install 3,000 liner feet of new sewer pipe as part of the second phase of its sewer interceptor replacement project set to begin Monday.

“This project brings significant enhancements to the overall system,” said Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District General Manager Frank Alfone in a news release. “While there will be impacts to both vehicular and pedestrian traffic at times, the finished project will benefit the community for decades to come.”

The interceptor project consists of replacing approximately 5,600 liner feet of existing sanitary sewer trunk collection main and associated structures, approximately 25 manholes and a sanitary sewer junction box. The new pipe material is composed of polyvinyl chloride or PVC.

This project will require a closure and detour of the sidewalk along the Yampa River Core Trail south of Fetcher Pond to Alpine Lumber. An additional closure of the sidewalk at U.S. Highway 40 and Mount Werner Road will also be implemented in late July. Both set of closures and detours will run through the duration of the work into mid-October.

The design parameters for the project were provided by Civil Design Consultants. Engineering and design plans were prepared by Landmark Consultants, Inc., and Native Excavating Inc. will serve as the project’s general contractor.

#LakeMead projected to match lowest water level in history this week — The #LasVegas Review-Journal #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

US Drought Monitor map June 1, 2021.

From The Las Vegas Review-Journal (Blake Apgar):

Lake Mead’s water level this week is projected to match its lowest point since the reservoir was formed in the 1930s, federal officials said Tuesday.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman Patti Aaron said projections show Lake Mead’s water level reaching an elevation of 1,071.61 feet on Thursday, matching the record low set on July 1, 2016.

And the lake level decline isn’t projected to stop there.

“We expect it to keep declining until November,” Aaron said.
Lake Mead is barreling toward its first federally declared water shortage, a product of a decades-long drought that has left the Colorado River parched. About 90 percent of Southern Nevada’s water comes from Lake Mead…

Under a shortage, Nevada would have its annual 300,000 acre-foot allocation of water from the river slashed by 13,000 feet. That reduction would come in addition to an 8,000 acre-foot contribution Nevada agreed to in 2019 in the event Lake Mead’s water level dropped below 1,090 feet, as it has…

This year, the Colorado River Basin is projected to experience its second-driest year in more than a century of record keeping. The driest year on record was 2002…

The declining lake level has also reduced the Hoover Dam’s power generation capacity.
According to the Bureau of Reclamation, the dam’s power plant is capable of producing about 2,080 megawatts. Aaron said the current capacity is 1,567 megawatts, enough to power about 350,000 homes…

Each foot in elevation that the lake level decreases, Aaron said, the dam loses about 6 megawatts of capacity. The lowest water level that allows the dam to continue generating power is 950 feet.

“But we are not in danger of hitting that point,” Aaron said…

Even if the state’s allocation is cut, Southern Nevada wouldn’t immediately feel the squeeze. Last year, the region used 256,000 acre feet, and the Southern Nevada Water Authority has about eight years worth of water at that rate of usage stored in Arizona, California, Lake Mead and Las Vegas’ local aquifer.

Colorado Journalists: Join Your Peers to Strengthen Your Coverage of Water in the West — @WaterEdCO

Wallace Stegner. Ed Marston/HCN file photo

Click here for all the inside skinny and to register for the information session on June 10, 2021:

Water Education Colorado and Fresh Water News are excited to partner with the Colorado News Collaborative, Gates Family Foundation and Colorado Media Project to bring this new opportunity: “Water Fluency for Journalists!”

Interested journalists are invited to apply by June 23 to increase your water knowledge and receive a $1,000 stipend toward participation.

Colorado’s water future is at risk now more than ever. Facing a growing population, warmer climate, longer growing season, decreased snowpack, and earlier runoff, the state’s water supplies are increasingly taxed to serve competing interests. Hundreds of thousands of residents are new to Colorado and unaware of the fundamental challenges faced by their new home state. Even for Coloradans who consider themselves “natives,” many grew up in urban areas with little or no awareness of where their water comes from, how it is managed, or the risks to and opportunities for ensuring a sustainable future.

Strong water journalism is vital for developing more knowledgeable and engaged Coloradans. Yet as the number of professional journalists has been cut nearly in half over the past 15 years, there are fewer and fewer Colorado reporters dedicated to covering this important issue. Today many journalists covering water for local news outlets are generalists, and may not feel confident covering the often complex topics of water management, water rights, water policy, drought, climate change, forest health, demand management, agricultural water innovations and more.

That’s why Water Education Colorado is proud to co-develop and offer this 2021 Water Journalism Fellowship opportunity for working Colorado journalists.

The five-month fellowship features a series of four “Water Fluency for Journalists” workshops presented by Fresh Water News and Water Education Colorado, plus coaching support for individual and collaborative reporting projects from Fresh Water News and the Colorado News Collaborative. The fellowship experience and $1,000 stipends are made possible through support from the Denver-based Gates Family Foundation, through its Natural Resources program.

For more information about the fellowship opportunity and eligibility requirements, visit the CMP website.

Interested applicants should also join us for an information session on Thursday, June 10, to hear more. Register for the meeting now.

Learn more and apply by June 23

Friend of Coyote Gulch Chris Woodka past water reporter extraordinaire. Photo credit The High Country News

Topsoil Short to Very Short: Tough week across the northern and western U.S. — @USDA

From the USDA:

Biggest increases took place in SD and MI. NV not far behind.