Slow-moving cold fronts and widespread showers dominated the Drought Monitor this week, triggering drought improvements in some areas, but rains continued to avoid the far West, where high temperatures exacerbated the region's drought.
California, has little room for further deterioration, at least during the dry season, says this week's drought map author David Miskus of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
National Climatic Data Center rankings for California for the July 2013-June 2014 period were the warmest and third driest since 1895. The only drier July-June periods were in 1923-24 and 1976-77, the Drought Monitor said.
A recent study estimated that this drought will cost California $2.2 billion in 2014, with a loss of over 17,000 agricultural jobs.
Despite issues in California, a robust start to the July southwest monsoon was seen in parts of the Southwest. More than 2 inches of rain fell on central and southeastern Arizona, much of western and central New Mexico, and most of southern and eastern Colorado.
Thunderstorms moving from northwest to southeast dropped moderate to heavy rains on sections of southern South Dakota, eastern half of Nebraska, northeastern Kansas, and most of Missouri.
Accordingly, the D0 and D1 areas were improved by one category where more than two inches of rain fell and short- to medium-term shortages were gone. The exceptions to this included extreme southern South Dakota, northern Nebraska and southeastern Iowa, Miskus says.
Current pasture and range conditions are quite different from two years ago when 33%, 59%, 49%, and 87% of South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri were rated poor or very poor, respectively – and now are rated 85%, 55%, 75%, and 58% good or very good.
Corn and soybeans are mostly in good or excellent condition. Much of this is based upon a near-record wet June, Miskus says. According to the National Climatic Data Center, June 2014 ranked as the first, third, fourth, fourth, fourth, sixth, sixth and tenth wettest June or record since 1895 in Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Illinois, respectively.
Southern and Central Plains
Southeastward-moving thunderstorms dumped heavy rain on swaths of central Kansas into eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas, providing improvement where the greatest rains fell.
In central Kansas, D2 replaced D3 as both short and medium-term surpluses existed.
In Oklahoma, D3 and D2 were improved by one category in the northeast, D2 was chipped away in central sections, and D0 was eliminated in eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas. However, the southwestern section of Oklahoma observed dry and warm weather, justifying a small expansion of D2 there.
In Texas, it was a relatively dry week, following a wet May and near-normal June.
Although Oklahoma's winter wheat crop was estimated to be the smallest since 1957 (51 million bushels) and its 17 bushels per acre yield matched 1967 (due to drought and freezes), summer row crops and pastures were rated much better, with the worst conditions in the west, Miskus reports.
Similarly, Texas crops are fair, with oats, cotton, and sorghum rated 28, 23, and 9% poor or very poor, respectively, and pastures and ranges at 22%, generally better off than the past several years.
East and East Coast
Widespread showers and thunderstorms covered most of the Northeast this Drought Monitor week, generally maintaining conditions across the region.
July 13 USDA pasture and range conditions rated very poor or poor have gradually increased to 20%, 15%, and 17%, up from 11%, 3%, and 9% on June 8 in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina, respectively.
Hit and miss showers and thunderstorms were mostly a miss this week in much of Alabama, western and central Georgia, and the central Carolinas. In contrast, rains of fewer than two inches fell on most of Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, northern Alabama, extreme southern and northern Georgia, southern Appalachians, and the eastern Carolinas.
With respect to impacts, South Carolina reported 28% of their pasture and range in poor or very poor condition, while many USGS steam flow sites in the D0 areas have dropped into the below normal.
Source: U.S. Drought Monitor