Report: ‘Abnormal Dryness’ Begins in Midwest
Summary: This U.S. Drought Monitor week was dominated by a persistent weather system that dumped precipitation in the South and Southeast over multiple days. Radar estimates go as high as 10+ inches in one location in eastern Louisiana. The High and Southern Plains also benefitted from precipitation, from southern South Dakota down into Texas while areas of the West and Midwest remained dry.
The East: The eastern U.S. remains drought free again this week.
The South and Southern Plains: Beneficial rains fell again this week across portions of northern Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Arkansas, leading to improvements in drought conditions in western and central Kansas, western and central Oklahoma, the Panhandle of Texas, south-central Arkansas, and eastern Louisiana. Conversely, Extreme (D3), Severe (D2) and Moderate Drought (D1) expanded in Texas and northern Louisiana and Abnormal Dryness (D0) expanded in Louisiana and southern Arkansas.
The Central and Northern Plains: Beneficial rainfall continues to improve drought conditions in western and southern South Dakota, where Moderate Drought (D1) and Abnormal Dryness (D0) have abated, and in northern Nebraska where Extreme Drought (D3) was reduced. Conversely, eastern parts of Iowa and South Dakota have seen less precipitation than normal and Abnormal Dryness (D0) has expanded there.
The Midwest: Lack of recent precipitation is beginning to be felt throughout the region. Abnormal Dryness (D0) expanded across eastern Illinois and into western Indiana, in northern Michigan, and across most of Minnesota and parts of Wisconsin. Likewise, Moderate Drought (D1) expanded in Minnesota and northern Wisconsin. Cooler temperatures have helped abate the lack of moisture lately but that could be changing as above-normal temperatures are expected in the area over the next two weeks.
The West: Conditions continue to degrade in the northern sections of the West. Idaho, western Montana, and northern Utah experienced an expansion of Severe Drought (D2) and western Montana saw an expansion of Moderate Drought (D1). Some of this area has experienced low precipitation for over a year with wildfire activity increasing as of late. Conversely, conditions continue to improve slightly in eastern New Mexico, which experienced a decrease of Exceptional (D4), Extreme (D3), and Severe Drought (D2), eastern Colorado where Extreme (D3) and Severe Drought (D2) conditions eased, and eastern Wyoming where Severe (D2) and Moderate Drought (D1) and Abnormal Dryness (D0) abated.
Wildfires remain a problem in parts of the West. The National Interagency Fire Center reported 51 active, large wildfires on Aug. 20, up from last week. Large fires continue to 10 western states including Idaho, where the Elk Fire has consumed over 130,000 acres of vegetation, an increase of over 30,000 acres this week. According to numerous sources, the cost of battling wildfires in 2013 has now exceeded $1 billion.
Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico: Beneficial rains on the eastern tip of the Big Island of Hawaii have proven sufficient to meet agricultural needs in the area. Abnormal Dryness (D0) was removed from the area. Drought continues to expand in southern Alaska with expansion of Severe (D2) and Moderate Drought (D1). Agricultural impacts are being felt in the area as soils dry and temperatures remain above normal. Puerto Rico remains drought free.
Looking Ahead: During the Aug. 22-26 time period, there is an above-normal chance for precipitation mainly in the Southeast, the extreme Southern Plains and the Southwest. Temperatures are expected to be above-normal across the northern part of the country from Montana through New England and below-normal on both the East and West coasts.
For the ensuing five days (Aug. 27-31), the odds favor normal to above-normal temperatures across the entire contiguous U.S., as well as across southern Alaska. Below-normal temperatures are favored only in northern Alaska. Above normal-precipitation is likely across the northern half of the country from Maine to eastern Oregon and over most of Alaska. Below-normal precipitation is expected in the Southern Plains and the Pacific Northwest, as well as in northern Alaska.