Moderate to heavy rains fell across the central Plains, Midwest and Texas for a second consecutive week, holding off drought expansion and in some cases improving the drought outlook, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report issued Thursday.
Eric Luebehusen of the USDA, this week's drought map author, says hot weather remained in the central Plains as some areas reported light rains and others saw locally heavy downpours.
"A small expansion of extreme drought in southwestern Kansas reflected increasingly poor vegetation health as indicated by satellite, with potential for additional degradations in this area if rain fails to materialize soon," Luebehusen explained.
In central and southwestern Nebraska, precipitation over the past 30 days has averaged 150% to 260% of normal. In Kansas, showers were mostly too light to warrant any additional improvement on top of last week's drought reduction, though some areas saw heavier rains.
Northern and Central Oklahoma into Texas saw modest to significant drought reductions.
In particular, there were numerous reports of more than 3 inches west of Oklahoma City, and several totals in excess of 7 inches southwest of Dallas-Fort Worth, Luebehusen reports. Consequently, drought intensity declined in areas where the heaviest rain fell, although long-term impacts continue.
Drought intensity waned further south into Texas along the Southwestern coast.
Midwest, Delta and Ohio Valley
Farther east, in the Delta, soil moisture remains limited in southwestern Louisiana due to pronounced dryness over the past 90 days. The rest of the Delta remained free of drought.
It was a wet week for the Midwest as moderate to heavy rainfall further reduced or eradicated drought but submerged low-lying fields and caused additional river flooding in western and central portions of the region, Luebehusen says.
The rain brought one-category improvements to the western half of the Corn Belt, though long-term precipitation deficits linger in west-central and southeastern Iowa.
Pronounced short-term rainfall deficits and above-normal temperatures led to an expansion of abnormal dryness in Kentucky and along the Ohio River as locally dry conditions continue from east-central Georgia northward into western South Carolina.
The rest of the southeastern quarter of the nation saw scattered showers and thunderstorms, which were sufficient to prevent any introduction or expansion of D0.
Variable conditions in the north contrasted with ongoing drought elsewhere. Luebehusen says, and the return of hot weather in California and the Southwest accelerated moisture losses and increased irrigation requirements.
In northern portions of the region, modest reductions were made to drought intensity and coverage in the mountains and foothills of northeast Washington, though drought expanded in the Columbia River Valley and was reflected by poor crop conditions and much-below-normal Water Year precipitation.
To further illustrate the drought's impacts, says Luebehusen, the USDA-National Ag Statistics Service reported Washington's winter wheat slipped 1 percentage point to 27% poor to very poor as of June 22, with only 30% rated good to excellent.
Farther south, California and the Great Basin will most likely have to wait until the 2014-2015 Water Year for drought relief, Luebehusen estimates.
Though no degradation or improvement was noted on the change map, Standardized Precipitation Indices, which helps quantify precipitation in terms of drought and historical probability, are well into the extreme and exceptional categories, the Drought Monitor says.
In the central Rockies and Four Corners, there were no changes to this week's drought depiction.
Source: U.S. Drought Monitor: A collaboration of the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USDA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.