This week’s Topsoil Moisture Short/Very Short by @usda_oce

Short-term drying in parts of the Southern Plains and other spots led to an increase in the national average from 44% to 49% And WA is still at 100%. But moisture is expected to move in this weekend.

#Drought news: Short-term dryness and #drought has become more apparent in recent weeks across the S. section of the High Plains region, including parts of #KS and #Colorado

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

Open weather across much of the country favored summer crop maturation and fieldwork, including harvest efforts and winter wheat planting. By September 12, more than one-third (37 percent) of the U.S. corn was fully mature, while 38 percent of the soybeans were dropping leaves, versus respective 5-year averages of 31 and 29 percent. Meanwhile, among the 13 major production states that have planted some winter wheat, all except Oregon were at or ahead of the 5-year average pace. Oregon’s delay—4 percent planted, versus 7 percent on average—can be attributed to producers’ hesitancy to sow winter wheat due to drought. Rain was observed, however, in several regions, including parts of the South and East. Portions of the Gulf Coast region had to contend with Hurricane Nicholas, the eighth Atlantic Basin tropical cyclone to make a U.S. landfall in 2021. Nicholas, briefly a Category 1 hurricane, moved ashore on Texas’ Matagorda Peninsula around 12:30 am CDT on September 14, delivering heavy rain and gusty winds to the middle and upper Texas coast. Aside from the western Gulf Coast region, some of the heaviest rain (locally 4 inches or more) fell in northern New England, chipping away at lingering, long-term drought. Locally heavy showers also dotted the lower Southeast, including Florida’s peninsula. Lower Southeastern rainfall was enhanced by the arrival and passage of minimal Tropical Storm Mindy, which made landfall on St. Vincent Island, Florida, at 8:15 pm CDT on September 8. Mindy’s sustained winds were briefly near 45 mph, followed by weakening the following day as the remnant circulation moved northeastward across northern Florida and southeastern Georgia. Late in the drought-monitoring period, showers and thunderstorms provided some limited drought relief in the upper Great Lakes region. Elsewhere, fleeting showers dampened some of the driest areas of the West, temporarily aiding wildfire containment efforts. However, hot, dry weather soon returned across the West, limiting the overall benefit of the precipitation. In fact, temperatures broadly averaged above normal across the western half of the country…

High Plains

Short-term dryness and drought has become more apparent in recent weeks across the southern section of the region, including parts of Kansas and Colorado, aggravated by periods of late-summer heat. A monthly record of 89°F was tied on September 10 in Alamosa, Colorado. Alamosa again reached 89°F on September 11, tying the record first set on September 5 and 6, 2020, while Colorado Springs, Colorado, achieved a new September standard (98°F; previously, 97°F on September 6, 2020). Across the High Plains, September 10-11 featured consecutive triple-digit, daily-record highs in communities such as McCook, Nebraska (102 and 104°F); Goodland, Kansas (103 and 102°F); and Burlington, Colorado (101 and 100°F). Dodge City, Kansas (105°F on the 11th), achieved a 105-degree reading in September for only the third time on record, following 106°F on September 3, 1947, and 107°F on September 1, 2011. Farther north, there were some adjustments (mostly improvements) to the drought depiction, primarily in the Dakotas, based on favorable impacts from recent rain events. For example, improvements in topsoil moisture have led to some greening of drought-affected pastures and have encouraged winter wheat producers to begin planting. Still, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported on September 12 that topsoil moisture was 64 to 71% very short to short in the Dakotas, while rangeland and pastures were rated 77 to 80% very poor to poor, reflecting the long road ahead regarding drought recovery. On the same date, statewide topsoil moisture on the High Plains ranged from 39% very short to short in Nebraska to 79% in Wyoming…

Colorado Drought Monitor one week change map ending September 7, 2021.


Any benefit from patchy rainfall across northern California and the interior Northwest was largely offset by above-normal temperatures. Still, with rainfall totaling 0.37 inch on September 10, Redding, California, experienced its wettest day since April 25, when 0.39 inch fell. Record-setting rainfall totals for September 10 included 0.63 inch in Ephrata, Washington; 0.61 inch in Redmond, Oregon; and 0.26 inch in Red Bluff, California. Most areas of the West had no change in the drought depiction; however, changes in the Northwest were a mix of slight improvement and minor degradation, mostly due to assessment of earlier precipitation events, water-supply reports, and vegetation health. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, topsoil moisture was rated 100% very short to short on September 12 in Washington, followed by 96% in Montana, 85% in California, 83% in Oregon, 79% in Wyoming, and 73% in Idaho. Meanwhile, USDA reported that at least one-half of the acreage devoted to rangeland and pastures was rated in very poor to poor condition is eight of the eleven Western States, led by Washington (96%), Montana (88%), and Oregon (87%). At the end of August, California’s 154 intrastate reservoirs contained 13.8 million acre-feet of water, just 60% of average for the date. Preliminary reports indicated that statewide reservoir holdings were less than one-half of the end-of-August average in Nevada, New Mexico, and Oregon. Meanwhile, several dangerous wildfires remained active across northern California and the Northwest. Nationally, year-to-date wildfires through mid-September had charred more than 5.6 million acres of vegetation. Even as Western wildfire activity has slightly waned in recent days, broad reductions in air quality have continued in parts of the region. Four of California’s active wildfires—the Dixie (more than 960,000 acres), Caldor (219,000 acres), Monument Fires (215,000 acres), along with the River Complex (187,000 acres)—were among the twenty largest blazes in state history. The Dixie Fire, initially sparked on July 13, has burned a vast area near Lake Almanor and has made several impressive runs while threatening to become the largest wildfire in California history. That blaze has also destroyed more than 1,300 structures. The Caldor Fire, which was ignited on August 14 just south of Grizzly Flats, California, has destroyed more than 1,000 structures—only the seventeenth wildfire in state history to do so…


While former Hurricane Nicholas soaked the western Gulf Coast region, many of parts of the South continued to experience short-term drying. As a result, abnormal dryness (D0) broadly expanded across Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, extending into northwestern Mississippi and western Tennessee. Pockets of moderate drought (D1) also developed. By September 12, Arkansas led the region—according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture—with topsoil moisture rated 69% very short to short, followed by Oklahoma (60%) and Texas (59%). At times, heat has been a factor in rapidly worsening conditions. In Texas, Borger posted a high temperature of 106°F on the 10th, edging the monthly record of 105°F originally set on September 5, 1995. Elsewhere in Texas, Del Rio noted highs of 100°F or greater on each of the first 10 days in September…

Looking Ahead

The remnants of Nicholas will meander over the central Gulf Coast region during the next couple of days, delivering additional rainfall totaling 3 to 6 inches or more from southeastern Louisiana into western Florida. Farther east, a low-pressure system north of the Bahamas will approach the middle Atlantic Coast and may soon become a tropical cyclone. Regardless of development, most of the significant tropical impacts should remain offshore. Elsewhere, a pattern change in the Pacific Northwest will result in cooler weather and widespread showers, starting on Friday. During the weekend, cool, showery weather will spread eastward across the nation’s northern tier—reaching northern sections of the Rockies and High Plains—and southward into northern California. However, generally dry weather will persist from central and southern California to the central and southern High Plains.

The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for September 21-25 call for the likelihood of below-normal temperatures from the Great Basin to northern sections of the Rockies and High Plains, while warmer-than-normal weather will prevail along and east of a line from southeastern Arizona to Minnesota. Meanwhile, below-normal precipitation across much of the western half of the U.S. should contrast with wetter-than-normal conditions in the Pacific Northwest and from the Mississippi Valley eastward, excluding the northern Atlantic States.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending September 7, 2021.

USDA to Invest $50 Million in New Cooperative Agreements for Racial Justice and Equity

Here’s the release from the USDA (Petra Popiel):

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing up to $50 million in cooperative agreements to support historically underserved farmers and ranchers with climate-smart agriculture and forestry. The Racial Justice and Equity Conservation Cooperative Agreements are available to entities for two-year projects that expand the delivery of conservation assistance to farmers who are beginning, limited resource, socially disadvantaged, and veteran farmers. Applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on October 25, 2021.

“Historically underserved producers face significant barriers in accessing USDA assistance for conservation and climate-smart agriculture,” said Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) STATE Conservationist NAME. “USDA is committed to revising programs to be more equitable, and these producers deserve our support as they contribute to our vibrant and diverse agricultural communities.”

The projects should help historically underserved farmers and ranchers in implementing natural resources conservation practices that:

  • Improve soil health;
  • Improve water quality;
  • Provide habitat for local wildlife species of concern;
  • Improve the environmental and economic performance of working agricultural land and;
  • Build and strengthen local food projects that provide healthy food and economic opportunities.
  • Projects should remove barriers to access and reach historically underserved groups through a combination of program outreach and technical assistance in managing natural resources that address one or more of the following four NRCS priority areas:

  • Addressing local natural resource issues;
  • Using climate-smart agriculture practices and principles;
  • Encouraging existing and new partnerships; and
  • Developing state and community-led conservation leadership for historically underserved agricultural producers, including educating and training students for careers in natural resources management.
  • Who Is Eligible

    Entities who provide outreach assistance to historically underserved groups are eligible, including:

  • Native American tribal governments and organizations.
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Private and public institutions of higher education
  • Historically underserved producers include those who are considered beginning, limited resource, socially disadvantaged, and veteran farmers and ranchers.
  • How to Apply

    Applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on October 25, 2021. See the announcement offsite for details and application instructions.

    This NRCS assistance builds on other USDA assistance to help historically underserved producers. In July, USDA’s Risk Management Agency invested nearly $1 million in nine risk management education projects focused on historically underserved producers. Meanwhile, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced in April its plans to establish partnerships with organizations to provide outreach and technical assistance to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. FSA plans to announce those partnerships in the coming weeks.

    Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is engaged in a whole-of-government effort to combat the climate crisis and conserve and protect our nation’s lands, biodiversity and natural resources including our soil, air and water. Through conservation practices and partnerships, USDA aims to enhance economic growth and create new streams of income for farmers, ranchers, producers and private foresters. Successfully meeting these challenges will require USDA and our agencies to pursue a coordinated approach alongside USDA stakeholders, including State, local and Tribal governments.

    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 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

    Not a single G20 country is in line with the Paris Agreement on #climate, analysis shows — CNN #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    Humans and fire have coexisted for years. But reorganizing our society around constant combustion may burn it to the ground.
    (Photo Credit: Issy Bailey, @bailey_i, via Unsplash)

    From CNN (Ivana Kottasová):

    None of the world’s major economies — including the entire G20 — have a climate plan that meets their obligations under the 2015 Paris Agreement, according to an analysis published Wednesday, despite scientists’ warning that deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions are needed now.

    The watchdog Climate Action Tracker (CAT) analyzed the policies of 36 countries, as well as the 27-nation European Union, and found that all major economies were off track to contain global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The countries together make up 80% of the world’s emissions.

    The analysis also included some low-emissions countries, and found that the Gambia was the only nation among all 37 to be “1.5 compatible.” As the study only included a few smaller emitters, it’s possible there are other developing countries in the world on track as well.

    Under the 2015 Paris accord, more than 190 countries agreed to limit the increase in global temperatures to well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures — ideally to 1.5 degrees. Scientists have said 2 degrees is a critical threshold for some of the Earth’s ecosystems, and is one that would also trigger more catastrophic extreme weather events.
    The report comes less than two months ahead of UN-brokered international climate talks in Glasgow, known as COP26. The event’s president, British MP Alok Sharma, has said he hopes to “keep 1.5 alive” as a global warming limit.

    CAT reported that progress had stalled after dozens of world leaders made ambitious new pledges to slash greenhouse gas emissions during the US President Joe Biden’s Climate Leaders’ Summit in April…

    Six countries, including the UK, have an overall climate policy that is “nearly sufficient,” according to the report, meaning they are not yet consistent with 1.5-degree alignment but could be with small improvements. The UK’s targets are in line with 1.5 degrees, but its policies in practice don’t meet the benchmark…

    The overall climate plans of the US, European Union and Japan are not sufficient to reach the 1.5-degree goal, the analysis found, saying that while their domestic targets are relatively close to where they need to be, their international policies are not.

    CAT had previously categorized the US as “critically insufficient” — the worst category — under former President Donald Trump, who formally withdrew the country from the Paris Agreement shortly before the end of his term.

    The United States’ domestic emission-cutting target has since been upgraded to “almost sufficient.” However, the US is still insufficient in CAT’s “fair share” target rating, which takes into account the country’s “responsibility and capability.”


    India, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are among countries that missed the July 31 deadline. China, the world’s biggest polluter, announced a new target, but hasn’t formally submitted it to the UN.

    And many countries submitted an “update” without actually increasing their pledge. Brazil and Mexico submitted the same targets as they did in 2015. Changes to those countries’ baseline assumptions make their pledges weaker than they were before, the analysis showed. Russia, the CAT report said, submitted an update that looks stronger on paper, but doesn’t amount to meaningful change…

    “Of particular concern are Australia, Brazil, Indonesia Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, Switzerland and Vietnam: they have failed to lift ambition at all, submitting the same or even less ambitious 2030 targets than those they put forward in 2015. These countries need to rethink their choice,” said Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics, another CAT partner.

    The continued use of coal remains a significant policy problem, the report found, with China and India retaining huge coal pipelines. Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea are also planning to go ahead with coal use in the future.

    CAT also warned that in many countries’ attempts to wean of coal, which is generally the fossil fuels that causes the most emissions, many countries were looking to use more natural gas, which CAT said was being falsely sold as a “bridging fuel.”

    The Australian government, which has said it will keep mining coal past 2030, is also investing money into new gas exploration and infrastructure, and “is of particular concern,” CAT said in its report…

    Thailand has plans to ramp up new gas as it phases out coal, while the EU is still planning to commit public funding to new gas infrastructure, and various member states are lobbying hard for the continued use of this fossil fuel.

    Hare warned against the development of blue hydrogen, based on natural gas, as an alternative to other fossil fuels…

    According to UN Climate Change, just over 130 countries have pledged to cut emissions to net-zero so far. The new analysis by CAT found that even if all of them followed up on their plans, warming would still reach 2 degrees.

    If they stick with the policies they have in place, temperatures will likely be 2.4 degrees higher by the end of century.

    Temperatures are already around 1.2 degrees higher than they were before humans started burning huge amounts of fossil fuels, so room for error is very limited.

    The August 2021 Climate Briefing is hot off the presses from Western Water Assessment

    Click here to go to the Western Water Assessment Intermountain West Climate Dashboard:

    Latest Briefing – September 15, 2021 (UT, WY, CO)

    West Drought Monitor 2-month change map ending September 7, 2021.
  • Much above average rainfall in Utah and western Wyoming during August caused some improvement to drought conditions in the Intermountain West, but drought persists across nearly the entire region except eastern Colorado. Improvements to drought conditions were aided by a return to near normal temperatures during August. Despite near-normal August temperatures, much of Utah and parts of western Colorado and Wyoming experienced record hot summer (June-August) temperatures. There is a 60 – 80% probability of La Niña conditions developing during fall and persisting through winter.
  • Precipitation was much above normal during August for much of the region, especially in Utah and western Wyoming due to a strong North American monsoon that brought precipitation further west and north than normal. Western US Seasonal Precipitation Much of Utah and western Wyoming received 150-200% of normal August rainfall; many of these locations received up to 400% of normal August precipitation and isolated areas received even greater rainfall totals. August is a dry month in the Intermountain West and even 400% of normal is not enough to recover from long-term drought, however areas of northern Utah and northwest Wyoming received 1.5 – 3 inches more rainfall than typically falls in August. The eastern two-thirds of Colorado, including the Front Range and eastern Wyoming received below normal precipitation during August.
  • During August, Intermountain West temperatures were near-normal. Western US Seasonal Precipitation In much of Utah and Wyoming, temperatures that were up to 2 degrees below normal and temperatures were up to 2 degrees above normal for much of Colorado. Despite a near-normal August temperatures, nearly half of Utah and parts of northwestern Colorado and western Wyoming experienced the hottest June – August on record. Western US Seasonal Precipitation June – August 2021 was among the 12 hottest summers on record for the nearly the entire region.
  • Prior to the onset of monsoonal rains in July and August, many regional rivers were approaching record-low streamflow values. A relatively wet August increased streamflow so that large areas of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming saw near-normal streamflow during August. Western US Seasonal Precipitation Despite recent rainfall, rivers in western Utah, western Wyoming and northwestern Colorado were flowing below to much-below normal during August. Record low August streamflow was observed in the Weber and Logan Rivers in northern Utah.
  • Above average August monsoonal rains led to a one category improvement of drought conditions across portions of Utah and western Wyoming. Western US Seasonal Precipitation Extreme and exceptional drought (D3-D4) persist across Utah, Wyoming and western Colorado, but conditions improved slightly during August. Improvements to drought conditions were most significant in Utah. In Utah, areal coverage of extreme drought decreased from 99% to 88% during August and the area of exceptional drought decreased by a factor of two, from 52% to 24% of the state. In Wyoming, drought conditions improved slightly in the western portion of the stated but worsened in the southeastern corner. Drought conditions improved by one category in portions of western Colorado, but a dry August caused areas of abnormally dry and D1 drought conditions to develop in the eastern plains of Colorado.
  • Eastern Pacific Ocean temperatures are slightly below normal, but regional climate remains in an ENSO-neutral condition. There is a 60 – 80% chance of La Niña conditions developing during fall Western US Seasonal Precipitation and greater than a 50% probability of La Niña conditions persisting through late winter. There is an increased probability for above average precipitation during September in southern Colorado. Western US Seasonal Precipitation During September – November, the NOAA seasonal forecast predicts an increased probability for above average temperatures and below average precipitation for the entire region. Western US Seasonal Precipitation
  • Significant August weather event. Heavy monsoonal rains caused record August precipitation in parts of northern Utah. Western US Seasonal Precipitation August rainfall was above to much-above normal for two-thirds of Utah and half of Wyoming during August. While rainfall was not great enough to alleviate multi-year drought, the heavy rainfall did improve drought conditions and eased fire danger during August. In Utah, parts of Carbon, Davis, Duchesne, Juab, Millard, Salt Lake, Summit, and Wasatch Counties received record amounts of August precipitation. Daily precipitation records were set at 43 locations in Utah during August. On August 18-19, 36 sites in Utah broke daily precipitation records.