#Drought news February 9, 2023: Most of the country experienced cooler-than-normal temperatures with the greatest departure from normal over the central Rocky Mountains

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

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

This Week’s Drought Summary

The vast majority of the country was drier than normal for the week with only areas of the southern Plains, South, and Southeast seeing precipitation that was well above normal. Dry conditions were prominent over the central and northern Plains, Midwest, Northeast and Southwest. Most of the country experienced cooler-than-normal temperatures with the greatest departure from normal over the central Rocky Mountains. Warmer-than-normal conditions were observed over the northern Rocky Mountains and in the Southeast with departures of 5-10 degrees above normal. A reassessment of conditions took place for many locations in the West to analyze the current drought intensity levels compared to the suite of indices and indicators used each week. Some adjustments were made based on this analysis and not directly related to anything that took place during the last week…

High Plains

Most of the region was dry for the week with just some light precipitation over eastern Wyoming and surrounding areas. Temperatures were cooler than normal from eastern Colorado through western Kansas and into Nebraska as well as the eastern areas of the Dakotas where temperatures were up to 5 degrees below normal. Temperatures were near normal to slightly above normal through the central to western Dakotas, eastern Wyoming and eastern Kansas. Minimal changes were made this week as only areas of southeast Wyoming improved with a reduction of severe and exceptional drought. Some improvements to severe drought were brought into western North Dakota based on reassessing the data going back a couple of years…

Colorado Drought Monitor one week change map ending February 7, 2023.

West

Most of the region had a dry week with below-normal precipitation. The exceptions were in California and Nevada with the Sierras picking up above-normal precipitation. Some coastal areas of California were at to slightly above normal from the central to northern portions of the coast. Areas of northwest Washington as well as south-central Washington into northeast Oregon also recorded above-normal precipitation. Temperatures were cooler than normal over much of the region with departures of 10-15 degrees below normal over Nevada, Utah and southern Idaho. Warmer-than-normal temperatures were observed over much of Montana with departures of 5-10 degrees above normal. With a quieter week in the West, a reassessment of drought intensity levels was made over portions of the region where data and indicators were analyzed going back to the last 3-5 years. In areas where there was not a consensus of support for the current drought intensity levels, improvements were made to better reflect where the data were pointing. For the reassessment, severe and extreme drought levels were reduced in Montana and Utah while moderate drought was improved over portions of California and Nevada. Acknowledging that some of these areas are still being impacted by long-term drought issues, the new depiction is better supported by the data. Some of these areas had minimal data support for the new drought intensity levels and this process may need to continue. Improvements were made in western Wyoming based on the short-term while degradation took place in portions of western and northern Oregon as the short-term has been especially dry…

South

Cooler-than-normal temperatures dominated the region from south Texas into Arkansas and Louisiana. Departures in south Texas were 8-10 degrees below normal. Portions of central Oklahoma as well as the panhandle regions of Oklahoma and Texas were normal to above normal and departures were only 2-4 degrees above normal. The same areas that were the warmest were also the driest as west Texas into the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas did not receive any precipitation. The coastal areas of south Texas and into southern Louisiana were also drier than normal. Central Texas into northern Louisiana and southern Arkansas recorded the most precipitation with up to 200% of normal observed. In the Big Bend area of Texas, well above-normal precipitation was also recorded. In eastern Texas where the most precipitation took place, some improvements to abnormally dry conditions were made. With the continued warm and dry conditions over the Oklahoma panhandle, there was an expansion of extreme and exceptional drought this week with dryness going back 18-24 months. Short-term dryness over portions of west Texas allowed for the reintroduction of abnormally dry conditions. The coastal areas of southern Louisiana are being monitored for degradation…

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending February 7, 2023.

Looking Ahead

Over the next 5-7 days, an active pattern is expected to develop over the Midwest and into the Southeast, with the greatest precipitation anticipated over Arkansas and southern Missouri as well as throughout the Southeast into the Mid-Atlantic. Temperatures are expected to be above normal over much of the northern Plains into the Midwest and Northeast, with departures of up to 10 degrees above normal. Cooler-than-normal temperatures are anticipated over the West with departures of 8-10 degrees below normal over Utah, Nevada and western Wyoming.

The 6–10 day outlooks show that temperatures are expected to be above normal over the eastern half of the country with the greatest probabilities of above-normal temperatures over the Northeast. Temperatures are anticipated to be cooler than normal over much of the West and Alaska. Much of the country is showing a high probability of above-normal precipitation, with the best chances of above-normal precipitation anticipated to be over the upper Midwest and Great Lakes region. There are above-normal chances of below-normal precipitation over northern Alaska and the Big Bend region of Texas…

Just for grins here’s a gallery of early February US Drought Monitor maps for the past few years.

New analysis says #GreatSaltLake can be saved, but not without great effort, and expense — The Deseret News

Figure 1. A bridge where the Bear River used to flow into Great Salt Lake. Photo: EcoFlight.

Click the link to read the article on The Deseret News website (Amy Joi O’Donoghue). Here’s an excerpt:

Even in ‘wet’ years, conservation, policy changes are paramount to restore the lake

All is not lost, a science based assessmentconcluded in a new report Wednesday. But a pragmatic analysis by a group of experts dubbed the Great Salt Lake Strike Team — made up of the Kem C. Gardener Institute of Policy, the University of Utah, Utah State University and the three state agencies of environmental quality, natural resources and agriculture — says action, however tectonic, is paramount.

“Declining water levels of Great Salt Lake threaten economic activity, local public health, and ecosystems. The situation requires urgent action. Fortunately, science provides crucial perspective, understanding, and scenarios for policymakers to chart a path forward. Many policy levers can help return the lake to healthy levels,” the report’s executive summary said.

The report is described as a “synthesized resource document” for this year’s legislative session containing data, insights and policy options to help devise strategies, improve water management and ultimately increase deliveries to the Great Salt Lake.

The report details six specific recommendations for gubernatorial and legislative support in the coming year:

  • Leverage the wet years.
  • Set a lake elevation range goal.
  • Invest in conservation.
  • Invest in water monitoring and modeling.
  • Develop a holistic water management plan.
  • Request an in-depth analysis of policy options.

Assessing the U.S. #Climate in January 2023: Atmospheric Rivers ushered in record rain and snow to parts of the West; Much of the Northeast had a record warm January — NOAA

GOES-West Satellite view atmospheric river winter 2022 or 2023. Credit: ADWR

Click the link to read the assessment on the NOAA website:

Key Points:

  • The average temperature of the contiguous U.S. in January 2023 was 35.2°F, which is 5.1°F above average, ranking as the sixth warmest January on record. New HampshireVermontMassachusettsRhode IslandConnecticutNew Jersey and Maine each had its warmest January on record.
  • January precipitation for the contiguous U.S. was 2.85 inches, 0.54 inch above average, ranking in the wettest third of the historical record. 
  • A series of nine Atmospheric River events from December 26 to January 17 caused significant flooding, power outages and mudslides in California that resulted in at least 21 deaths, 1,400 rescues and 700 landslides.
  • For the first time since 2017 and only the third time since 1950, over 100 tornadoes were confirmed by the National Weather Service during the month of January. 
  • According to the January 31 U.S. Drought Monitor report, about 42.7% of the contiguous United States was in drought. Severe to exceptional drought was widespread from the Great Basin to the Pacific Coast and across much of the Great Plains to Mississippi Valley, with moderate to severe drought in parts of the Great Lakes and Southeast and moderate drought in parts of the Northeast and Hawaii.
Please Note: Material provided in this map was compiled from NOAA’s State of the Climate Reports. For more information please visit: https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/access/monitoring/monthlv-report/

Other Highlights: Temperature

Generally, temperatures were above average across much of the contiguous U.S. east of the Rockies with near- to below-average temperatures from the central Rockies to the West Coast. New YorkPennsylvania and Indiana each ranked second warmest, with 17 additional states experiencing a top-10 warmest January on record. 

The Alaska statewide January temperature was 10.9°F, 8.7°F above the long-term average. This is the 13th-warmest January in the 99-year period of record for the state. Temperatures were above average across most of the state, while parts of western Alaska and the Aleutians experienced near- to below-average temperatures for the month.

Precipitation 

Precipitation was above average from California to the Great Lakes, from the southern Mississippi Valley to New England and in parts of the Southeast. Precipitation was below average from the Pacific Northwest to the northern Plains and in the Florida Peninsula and parts of the southern Plains and Mid-Atlantic. On the dry side, North Dakotaexperienced their 13th driest January in the 129-year record. Conversely, an abundance of precipitation received during the month resulted in Nebraska ranking third wettest on record. Massachusetts ranked fourth and Rhode Island ranked seventh wettest on record, with four additional states experiencing a top-10 wettest January on record.

Monthly precipitation averaged across the state of Alaska was 3.06 inches, 0.33 inch above average, ranking in the middle third of the 99-year record. Conditions were wetter than average across the North Slope, West Coast, southeast Interior and in parts of the Panhandle. Much of the Gulf of Alaska and northeast Interior experienced near-average conditions while much of central Interior Alaska and the western Aleutian Islands experienced below-average precipitation for the month. 

Other Notable Events

A series of nine atmospheric river events from late December into mid-January dumped a record amount of rain and mountain snow across parts of the western U.S., hitting California particularly hard and causing significant damage to the region including power outages. In California:

  • The perpetual deluge resulted in at least 21 deaths and prompted more than 1,400 rescues throughout the state.
  • California’s Geological Survey mapped more than 700 reported landslides due to rainfall.
  • The San Francisco Bay area experienced its wettest three-week period in 161 years.

January had several notable weather systems that brought severe thunderstorms and an unusually high number of tornadoes to portions of the United States. Over 100 tornadoes have been confirmed by the National Weather Service.  This is the third time since 1950 that January had more than 100 tornadoes during the month.

  • On January 2-4, a tornado outbreak occurred across portions of the southern Plains, Southeast and Illinois. A total of 61 tornadoes were confirmed by the National Weather Service. The tornadoes and severe thunderstorms with hail caused significant damage to the region. Nine of these confirmed tornadoes occurred in Illinois on January 3 – the highest number of tornadoes in January for the state since 1989.
  • On January 12, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes swept through parts of the Midwest and Southeast. The National Weather Service confirmed 69 tornadoes during this outbreak including two EF-3 tornadoes.
  • On January 16, two tornadoes were confirmed by the National Weather Service in Iowa – the state’s first January tornadoes since 1967.
US Drought Monitor map January 31, 2023.

Drought

According to the January 31 U.S. Drought Monitor report, about 42.7% of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, down about 3.6% from the beginning of January. Drought conditions expanded or intensified across portions of the southern Plains, the Florida Peninsula and parts of the Rockies, Pacific Northwest, Midwest and Hawaii. Drought contracted or was eliminated across large parts of the West and Midwest, and portions of the Plains, Great Lakes, Southeast, Northeast and Puerto Rico.

Monthly Outlook

According to the January 31 One-Month Outlook from the Climate Prediction Center, areas from the southern Plains and Great Lakes to the East Coast and Alaska Peninsula favor above-normal monthly mean temperatures in February, with the greatest odds in southern Florida. The best chances for below-normal temperatures are forecasted from the central Rockies to the West Coast. Much of the eastern U.S. and portions of the Northwest and northern Plains as well as southwestern Alaska are favored to see above-normal monthly total precipitation. Below-normal precipitation is most likely to occur across the southern Southwest, south Texas and much of Florida. Drought is likely to persist across much of the West, Plains and portions of the Southeast Coast. Some improvement and/or drought removal is likely to occur across portions of northern California, Oregon, eastern Oklahoma, southeast Kansas,, Michigan and Hawaii. Drought development is likely across parts of Texas and in the Florida Peninsula.

According to the One-Month Outlook issued on February 1 from the National Interagency Fire Center, portions of Texas, Georgia and Florida have above normal significant wildland fire potential during February.

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. For more detailed climate information, check out our comprehensive January 2023 U.S. Climate Report scheduled for release on February 13, 2023.