Western states stay dry in latest Drought Monitor

Western states stay dry in latest Drought Monitor

Largest-scale degradation appears in Wisconsin; improvements scattered in Texas, Louisiana and in the lower Mississippi Valley

Two low-pressure systems brought significant rains to portions of the contiguous U.S. from the Southern Great Plains to the mid-Atlantic. Elsewhere, most of the rest of the reporting stations around the country reported little to no precipitation, continuing the dry conditions across much of the western states, according to the latest Drought Monitor report released Thursday.

About 52.6% of the contiguous U.S. is in some form of drought currently, compared to 52% one year ago. About 3.2% is in the most extreme drought rating, compared to just 1.6% one year ago.

Largest-scale degradation appears in Wisconsin; improvements scattered in Texas, Louisiana and in the lower Mississippi Valley

Light to moderate rains fell across portions of the Central Appalachians and southern portions of the Northeast, said Drought Monitor author Matthew Rosencrans. As a result, abnormal dryness from West Virginia to central Pennsylvania was reduced in coverage.

Farther south, the same storm systems spread between 1.0 and 2.3 inches of precipitation over the western Virginia, prompting the removal of D0 along the Virginia-West Virginia border counties on the Virginia side.

Significant rain and frozen precipitation fell across southern Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky this week, Rosencrans noted. "Soil moisture models indicate a saturated soil profile, so a complete amelioration of drought was prudent over that region," he wrote.

No precipitation fell last week and temperatures were below average in the Northern Plains and upper Midwest. The cold temperatures and frozen soil continue to mitigate most impacts from no precipitation, as does the 2-5 inches of snow water equivalent that is locked in the snowpack.

Abnormal dryness was expanded across northeastern Iowa and most of Wisconsin to reflect the ongoing lack of precipitation, but tempered by the snowpack considerations across northern Michigan and Wisconsin.

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Western states stay dry in latest Drought Monitor

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In the middle and lower Mississippi Valleys and along the Gulf, significant rain fell, although some portions of northwest Arkansas and neighboring states largely missed out on the heaviest rains. The ongoing dryness continued across northwest Arkansas, eastern Kansas, and northeast Oklahoma.

Areas of Oklahoma, however, are still almost 4 inches behind in overall rainfall and the subsoil has not completely recovered from the past droughts, Rosencrans said.

In Texas, rains of up to 6.51 inches have improved drought conditions, so some of the D0-D3 areas were trimmed back across northeastern Texas, the drought map showed. Across southeastern Texas, recent rains prompted the removal of severe drought and some trimming of the moderate drought and abnormal dryness.

Heavier rains farther east also helped alleviate ongoing dryness across Louisiana and Mississippi. Rainfall totals ranged from 0.6 inch to over 2.5 inches across southwest and central Louisiana, while precipitation amounts were generally lighter across Mississippi, the drought map showed.

Only small reductions in coverage were made to the moderate drought areas over Mississippi and Alabama.

No significant precipitation fell across the High Plains, Rockies, and Intermountain West during this past week. The past week was slightly cooler than average for the Upper Colorado River Basin, and fairly seasonal in terms of precipitation.

The lack of winter storms across the Great Basin prompted the intensification of drought conditions across eastern Nevada and western Utah.

A few stations in New Mexico reported light precipitation, but most of the Southwest remained dry this week. Severe drought expanded across Navajo and Apache Counties in Arizona and Catron County in New Mexico.

The winter continues to be dry for much of the West Coast as no significant rains fell this past week. Abnormally dry conditions expanded across northwest Oregon. "The rest of the area remained unchanged, but will be monitored closely in the coming weeks," Rosencrans wrote.

USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey said earlier this week that California and portions of the Great Basin are likely to suffer another year of drought as snowpack is limited and reservoir levels are low.

"We're going to experience, it's inevitable, a fourth summer of drought in California," he said, limiting ag and other water usage for 2015.

Unusual warmth will also plague the area, Rippey said. "Unless we see temperatures returning to normal levels, that heat will factor into the drought equation this summer and make an already bad situation even worse."

He said the water issue and heat will plague perennial crops like fruit and nut trees.

Source: Matthew Rosencrans, NOAA/NWS/NCEP/CPC/ The U.S. Drought Monitor is produced in partnership between the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

TAGS: USDA
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