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Great Plains are 'Epicenter of 2013 Drought'

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The Northeast: Last week brought with it well below normal temperatures and virtually no precipitation across the region, leading to no changes with regard to the remaining D0.

Mid Atlantic: After back-to-back wet weeks for most of the region, things dried out and cooled down considerably this past week, resulting in a status quo depiction on the map.

The Southeast: The Southeast also turned predominantly dry and warmer this week. The most notable changes occurred in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. The border region along the Savannah River between Georgia and South Carolina saw an expansion of D3 to the coast along with a deepening of D2 in southern South Carolina and southern Georgia. Florida saw a 1-category expansion in D0 across most of the Florida Peninsula along with D1 and D2 expansion also noted in the Panhandle. In addition, there was also a slight pushing south and west of D1 and D2 in southern Alabama where recent rains have missed and the dry trend continues to intensify.

The South: Very warm temperatures (10 to 15 degrees above normal was commonplace) and dryness marked last week’s weather across most of the region. That, coupled with a return to drier times, leads to mostly minor shifts and slight deterioration across most of Texas and southwestern Oklahoma as well. Arkansas remains unchanged from last week but the recent wet pattern continues to bode well for them, particularly in central and northeastern reaches.

Midwest: There was some late period precipitation across northeastern Iowa, northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin this past week, but given the deficits, lack of impacts and frozen top soils, it isn’t enough to move the drought off its mark, so status quo is the word this week.

The Plains: The region remained unseasonably warm except for the Dakotas, but all shared in the all-too-common persistent dryness with no major precipitation outbreaks occurring last week. As such, the drought is firmly entrenched as we roll toward February. The relative lack of winter in back-to-back years will certainly place a much greater emphasis on well above-normal spring rains if the region is to have any real chance of shaking this drought. Same song, fifth verse with no changes of note on the map this week in what is now becoming the epicenter of the 2013 drought.

The West: The West saw a mixed bag on both the temperature and precipitation fronts last week as much of the Rocky Mountain spine region and the Southwest experienced well above normal temperatures. The Pacific Northwest remained the exception by staying cooler and wetter. The big winner this week was seen across central Arizona, where anywhere from 2-4 inches or more was observed, bringing about 1-category improvements to the D1-D3 drought. Longer-term dryness/drought is still a concern, but this system provided a much-needed shot-in-the-arm of moisture. Northwestern New Mexico shared in the bounty of this same system, but not nearly to the degree seen in central Arizona and southwestern Colorado. However, this was enough to remove the D3 from New Mexico, although many basins are still running below normal with regard to snow water equivalent (SWE) levels, meaning the severe drought (D2) remains. Same goes for southwestern Colorado, where the system helped boost SWE values, but not enough to move them out of D2 given the chronic dryness stretching back to last winter.

Ample rains along the southern coast of California lead to a 1-category improvement from D1 to D0 and a push of the D1 westward off the coast from San Diego to Santa Barbara. Finally, well to the north in and around the Idaho Panhandle and northwestern Montana, precipitation last week leads to a trimming of the D0, primarily on the Montana side of the Divide, although the D0 is still left intact (albeit in a diminished state given the lagging SWE).

Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico: The rains of recent weeks have brought some improvements to parts of the Hawaiian Islands and this trend seems to still be occurring, but this week’s map remains unchanged as local impact assessments continue to weigh short-term improvement vs. the long-term chronic drought that has persisted since 2008.

Conditions remain unchanged in Alaska and on Puerto Rico.

Looking Ahead: The NWS HPC 5-Day forecast calls for a nice potential storm system to bring moisture to the Pacific NW and into the northern Rockies. Another system will push eastward, bringing with it good chances for 1-2 inches of rain, or more, to the Gulf Coast region, and up the Appalachian spine into the Northeast. Temperatures are expected to be above normal across most of the West and central-southern Plains. Below-normal readings will be most pronounced in the Great Lakes region and unseasonably cool weather is expected to encroach across the rest of the East Coast and down into Florida.

The CPC 6–10 day outlook (Feb. 5 thru Feb. 9) is showing a strong likelihood for above-normal temperatures across the Southwest, South, Great Plains and Midwest. The New England region and north coast of California and south coast of Oregon can expect below-normal readings. As for precipitation, the wet trend is expected to continue across a good portion of the Desert Southwest and within the Midwest and Northeast. Drier times are to be expected along the Gulf Coast and into the coastal Carolinas, enveloping all of Florida as well.

 

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