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Drought: Dry N.M. Awaiting Monsoon Season

June 27, 2013 by   - () Leave a Comment

Editor’s Note: With the eastern half of the U.S. virtually drought-free, Woodall’s Campground Management this week limits commentary from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the U.S. drought to the Western states where the problem is most severe.

The Plains and Lower Mississippi Basin: Most of the biggest changes in the region this week were of the better variety, especially in South Dakota, where generous widespread rains led to 1-category improvements and a push westward of D0/D1 across the Missouri River. Only a small amount of D0 remains between north central South Dakota and south central North Dakota because of longer-term deficits. The western half of the state still has plenty of drought to overcome moving forward into summer, so all is not clear. Farther south, favorable rains of late mean more improvement is noted in extreme northeastern Kansas with a trimming of D0 there. Spotty normal rains result in status quo for Nebraska this week.

In the southern Plains, Oklahoma dried out a bit this week and the rains that did fall were not enough to warrant improvement in the Panhandle. With the increasing temperatures, D4 nudges slightly north in western Oklahoma. Texas sees a second consecutive week of several changes, mostly for the worse as things continue to warm up (4-8F above-normal) and dry out save for spotty convective thunderstorm activity, which continues to bring some relief to some. As a result, southern and southeastern Texas see an expansion of drought this week while extreme northeastern Texas sees a reduction of D0/D1 along with northwestern Louisiana and southwestern Arkansas this week. The Texas Panhandle sees some shifting around of D3/D4, with most cases reflecting relative improvement given the recent rains. Western Texas sees some slight improvements to their drought situation this week as well.

The West: Changes aplenty this week as spring gives way to summer and summer heat is making its presence felt with fires (or the threat of) continuing to steal the impacts spotlight for many. New Mexico continues to forge into uncharted territory, with data from NOAA-National Climatic Data Center (records going back to 1895) showing the past 12 months to be the driest on record for the state coupled with the past 24 and 36 months coming in as the second driest on record. Virtually the entire state falls within the two worst categories on our drought severity scale, D3 and D4. All eyes will be squarely affixed on the upcoming monsoon season.

Wyoming sees improvements in the northeastern corner of the state and degradation in the south, with the trimming of D0/D1 in the northeast and expansion of D2/D3 in the south in proximity to the Colorado and Nebraska borders.

Colorado’s situation continues to deteriorate under the influence of summer’s heat, noted by expansion of D2 in the northeastern corner of the state as well as a slight push north and west of D3 in the southeastern corner. Fire still remains front and center with regard to impacts, but rangeland conditions continue to take a beating all along the Front Range.

Arizona and Nevada both see increases in drought conditions this week. In Nevada, D2 pushes farther east toward the Utah border while in Arizona both D2 and D3 expand slightly in the north central region and within the Navajo Nation.

For a second consecutive week, California sees a push of D2 across all of the Sacramento Valley and points eastward into more of both the Cascades and the Sierra Nevada. Recent rains in and along the northwestern coastal ranges have not been nearly enough to offset the record to near-record year-to-date deficits that have led to reduced streamflows in many basins.

Looking Ahead: The NWS WPC 5-Day (June 26 – July 1) Quantitative Precipitation Forecast (QPF) shows the best chances for precipitation east of the Mississippi River, with the heaviest rains possible in the Ohio Valley and Northeast as well as the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast, where 2-3 inches or more could fall. West of the Mississippi, prospects look much bleaker with only modest rains being forecasted.

Temperatures over this same period look to be seasonable or even below normal over the eastern third of the country in combination with the forecasted rains. The same can’t be said for the West, where temperatures will build in concert with the high pressure ridging there, bringing the prospects of well above normal readings (in the 6-13 degree range) in California, the Intermountain West, the Pacific Northwest and the northern Rockies.

The 6-10 day (July 2-6) outlooks are showing that temperatures are likely to stay above normal in the Intermountain West and Pacific Northwest, including all of California. Alaska will also stay under the high pressure influence along with the resultant above-normal temperatures that accompany it. The Northeast appears more likely to be above normal on the temperature side too. The central U.S. looks to be cooler than normal from the Front Range to the Ohio Valley.

As for precipitation, the Southeast and Northeast look to be wetter than normal, as do parts of southern Nevada, northern Arizona and central New Mexico in what may signal a start to the monsoon. Below-normal precipitation is expected in northern reaches of the Pacific Northwest (Washington over to Montana) and over into the northern Plains and Upper Midwest.

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