#Drought news May 18, 2023: Phenomenal rainfall totals led to significant reductions in drought coverage, especially from eastern #Colorado and northwestern #Kansas

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

A complex, slow-moving storm system delivered heavy rain across much of the nation’s mid-section, but largely bypassed some of the country’s driest areas in southwestern Kansas and western Oklahoma, as well as neighboring areas. Still, the rain broadly provided much-needed moisture for rangeland and pastures, immature winter grains, and emerging summer crops. Significant rain spread into other areas, including the southern and western Corn Belt and the mid-South, generally benefiting crops but slowing fieldwork and leaving pockets of standing water. Excessive rainfall (locally 4 to 8 inches or more) sparked flooding in a few areas, including portions of the western Gulf Coast region. Little or no rain fell across much of the remainder of the country, including southern Florida, the Northeast, the Great Lakes region, and an area stretching from California to the southern Rockies. Warmth in advance of the storm system temporarily boosted temperatures considerably above normal across parts of east-central Plains, western Corn Belt, and upper Great Lakes region. Meanwhile, record-setting heat developed in the Pacific Northwest, setting several May temperature records…

High Plains

Phenomenal rainfall totals led to significant reductions in drought coverage, especially from eastern Colorado and northwestern Kansas into western North Dakota. Goodland, Kansas, received consecutive daily-record totals of 1.50 and 1.12 inches, respectively, on May 10 and 11. Daily-record totals topped 3 inches on the 11th in Imperial, Nebraska (3.56 inches), and Colorado Springs, Colorado (3.18 inches). That marked the wettest May day on record in Colorado Springs, toppling 2.34 inches on May 30, 1935. In Denver, Colorado, where 2.92 inches fell on the 11th, it was the wettest calendar day since May 6, 1973, when 3.27 inches fell. Denver’s storm total (4.40 inches from May 10-12) represented more than 30 percent of its normal annual precipitation. During the week ending May 14, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported double-digit improvements in topsoil moisture rated very short to short in several states, including Nebraska (from 66 to 46%), South Dakota (from 38 to 19%), and Colorado (from 45 to 35%). The rain also helped to revive winter wheat and benefited emerging summer crops. Still, even with the rain, Kansas led the nation on May 14 with 68% of its winter wheat rated in very poor to poor condition. In addition, the rampant storminess largely bypassed some of the extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4) areas in a strip extending from southwestern Kansas into eastern Nebraska…

Colorado Drought Monitor one week change map ending May 16, 2023.


Aside from some heavy precipitation in the central Rockies and environs, much of the West experienced warm, mostly dry weather. As a result, there were only minor Western changes to the drought-depiction, some due to further assessment of the impact of cold-season precipitation as the snow-melt pace accelerated. Indeed, a Northwestern heat wave—rare for this time of year—resulted in multiple monthly record highs, starting on May 14. On that date in Oregon, both Astoria and Seaside attained 93°F. Astoria tied a monthly record, originally set on May 16, 2008, while Seaside toppled its monthly mark of 86°F, attained most recently on May 19, 1978. Notably, Portland, Oregon, achieved highs of 90°F or greater on 4 consecutive days, from May 12-15. Prior to this year, Portland’s May record of three 90-degree readings occurred in 1947 and 1987, with only the latter being observed on 3 consecutive days (May 6-8, 1987). Meanwhile in Washington, Hoquiam (91°F on the 14th) posted a monthly record high, shattering the standard of 87°F originally set on May 29, 2007. With a high of 92°F on the 14th, Quillayute, Washington, tied a monthly record first achieved on May 7, 1987. Elsewhere, Western reservoir storage as a percent of average for the date reflected varying degrees of drought recovery. As May began, California’s 154 primary intrastate reservoirs held 28.6 million acre-feet of water, 104 percent of average. However, storage on that date in the Colorado River basin was 15.5 million acre-feet, just 48 percent of average. Still, the surface elevation of Lake Mead has risen nearly 9 feet since setting an end-of month record low of 1,040.92 feet in July 2022…


Most of the region remained free of drought, but moderate to exceptional drought (D1 to D4) persisted in parts of central and western Texas and across the northwestern half of Oklahoma. During the drought-monitoring period, ending on the morning of May 16, extremely heavy rain drenched the western Gulf Coast region, especially near the central Texas coast. On May 10, Palacios, Texas, measured 6.21 inches of rain—part of a very wet stretch that included an additional 3.93 inches on May 13-14. Heavy showers extended northeastward into southeastern Oklahoma, northern Louisiana, Arkansas, and western Tennessee. By May 14, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that topsoil moisture was rated 30% surplus in Arkansas, along with 29% in Louisiana. Farther west, however, serious drought impacts persisted, despite spotty showers. Statewide in Texas, rangeland and pastures were rated 51% very poor to poor on May 14. Any rain was generally too late for the southern Plains’ winter wheat, which is quickly maturing. More than half of the wheat—52 and 51%, respectively, in Texas and Oklahoma—was rated very poor to poor by mid-May. A recent estimate by the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicated that 32.6% of the nation’s winter wheat will be abandoned—highest since 1917—including 70.1% of the Texas crop…

Looking Ahead

Showers and thunderstorms will linger for the next couple of days across the lower Southeast, in the vicinity of a weakening cold front, with an additional 1 to 3 inches of rain possible in some areas. Meanwhile, another cold front will race eastward across the northern U.S., generating showers before reaching the Atlantic Coast on Saturday. Rainfall associated with the Northern cold front will be short-lived, with most locations receiving less than an inch. However, late-week thunderstorms may become heavy along the tail of the cold front, with 1 to 3 inches of rain possible in central and southern sections of the Rockies and Plains. Elsewhere, little or no precipitation will fall during the next 5 days along and near the Pacific Coast. The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for May 23 – 27 calls for the likelihood of near- or above-normal temperatures and precipitation across most of the country. Cooler-than-normal conditions will be confined to parts of the South, while drier-than-normal weather should be limited to the Pacific Northwest and an area stretching from the mid-South and lower Midwest into the Northeast.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending May 16, 2023.

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