Update: See the April 7 Drought Monitor
Heavy rains in the past seven days have fallen across the southern Plains, Mississippi Valley and into the Southeast this week while low temperatures in the Great Lakes region and Northwest prevailed, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor update, released Thursday.
Degradations were mostly centered on the northern third of the U.S., with large swaths across Idaho, Washington and Oregon, as well as South Dakota and Minnesota. Improvements were most notable in Texas and western Oklahoma, with smaller improvements in northern Illinois and southern Florida.
About 53.3% of the contiguous U.S. is in some form of drought or dryness currently, compared to 53.4% last week and 48.8% one year ago. About 3.4% is in the most extreme rating, compared to 3.5% last week and 3.8% one year ago.
There was light precipitation and chilly temperatures in the Northeast this Drought Monitor week, while streamflows were relatively normal. Most of the depiction was unchanged.
Farther south, rainfall supported removal of abnormal dryness in Tennessee and in Alabama. Moderate rain fell across much of the state of Georgia, but not enough for widespread improvements, and just enough to offset further degradation.
In North Carolina, below-normal rainfall was reported but moisture conditions and stream flows remain in good shape, drought map author Anthony Artusa wrote.
Decent precipitation descended on the northern Midwest and much of the rain was absorbed into the ground in Iowa, removing dryness in parts of the state.
In northwestern Illinois, little if any precipitation deficits were noted out to 90 days and abnormal dryness was removed in several counties.
In Minnesota, a prolonged period of dry conditions warranted a one category degradation from moderate to severe over northwestern portions of the state.
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Across to North Dakota, rains this past week were very spotty, Artusa said. Conditions were variable, with some reports of wet soil and machinery stuck in the mud, and other reports of inadequate vegetation for livestock.
For this week, the only modification made to the drought depiction was to slightly expand moderate drought westward in south-central North Dakota; one area under special monitoring is a handful of counties in the southeast part of the state.
In eastern and central South Dakota, field work and corn planting is ramping up quickly this week, Artusa said, especially in the eastern part of the state, and field reports indicate dry topsoil conditions. A fairly large area of severe drought was introduced in central and eastern South Dakota.
One agricultural impact is winter wheat winterkill; other small grains that were planted this spring have been slow to emerge, or uneven in emergence, due to dry conditions. Alfalfa fields also experienced winterkill and/or frost damage.
The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service soil moisture reports indicate South Dakota is 69% Short or Very Short, which is the third worst in the Nation, Artusa reported.
Some degradations were noted in Nebraska as precipitation deficits grow. In southwestern Kansas, there were welcome rains and cooler conditions, but the only one-category upgrade was made in two counties.
In western and central Oklahoma, heavy rain prompted one-category improvements in some areas. In Texas, rain fell mostly where it was needed this week, also resulting in lots of one-category improvements across the state. Short-term improvements were also rendered to the drought depiction in the Panhandle region.
In eastern New Mexico during the past several days, widespread 1-2 inch rain amounts and reports of excellent soaking rains, with little runoff was noted.
A rancher from San Miguel County reported soil moisture down to 3 feet, with significant green-up compared to the past several years, Artusa said. Factors such as these prompted the removal of severe conditions in some counties.
Relatively small-scale revisions were made to the depiction in both Colorado and Utah. The largest change was a one-category improvement across eastern sections of Utah, and adjacent western sections of Colorado.
In southwestern Idaho over the past few weeks, there has been a robust green-up in some areas but it appears to be short-lived and a one-category deterioration was rendered to the depiction across the state.
In Washington, it's been much drier than usual during the last month, especially in the lower Columbia Basin. Reservoirs are being tapped earlier than normal (normal is late June), since snow melt is not adequate for regional needs.
In south-central and southeastern Montana, abnormal dryness was modestly expanded to reflect the increasingly dry conditions.
Little if any precipitation fell across the state of California during the past seven days, with the exception of moderate to locally heavy precipitation over north-central portions of the state, including the Sierras, Artusa wrote.
The heavy precipitation will aid in green-up, but is expected to have very little impact on the long-term drought.
Source: Anthony Artusa/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.