Report: Drought Worsens in the Great Plains

August 9, 2012 by · Comments Off on Report: Drought Worsens in the Great Plains 

Editor’s Note: The following report comes courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic: Rainfall over the past week was scattered and temperatures were above normal for most locales. As such, most of this area stays status quo this week. Minor adjustments of note include some reduction of D0 and D1 in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, where some locales saw 3 to 5 inches this past week. Low streamflow and groundwater levels remain a concern heading into fall for parts of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and northern Maine.

The Southeast: Parts of the Southeast received a good soaking last week while others missed out, leading to a mixed bag of changes on this week’s map. The heaviest precipitation fell over eastern Tennessee, the western Carolinas, northern Georgia, eastern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, leading to 1-category improvements along the drought’s perimeter in these regions. This hasn’t removed drought, but instead has only tightened the gradients between the haves and the have-nots, as conditions can vary wildly over very short distances. The underlying hydrologic drought in Georgia and Alabama remains well seated, with low streamflows being commonplace as they are well into a two-year drought.

The Midwest: Conditions continue to improve in the eastern half of the region as another week of good rains came to parts of Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. Again, generally speaking, the drought continues to improve and is being pushed west, tightening the gradient along the way with 1-category improvements noted in eastern and southern Ohio, eastern and central Kentucky and north-central Indiana. Parts of the core region of drought in this region continue to see deterioration this week marked by a slight expansion of D2/D3 in southeastern Indiana. Continuing east, both Iowa and Illinois see expansion of D3 and D3. Missouri and Arkansas continue to worsen as the heat and dryness continues its grip, leading to an expansion of D4 in northern Arkansas and southern Missouri along with a new area of D4 in extreme west-central Missouri adjoining Kansas. Reports of water-related impacts are ticking upward with each passing week as mandatory restrictions continue to ramp upward around the region. As the drought continues, this will undoubtedly become a more prevalent issue as the agricultural season passes and attention turns to next year’s crops or herds.

The Great Plains and South: Same song, tenth verse last week as much of the Plains saw the pattern of excessive heat and dryness persist, leading to more expansion across Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and parts of Texas. As a result, D3 has moved across east central Nebraska and into west central Iowa, D3 pushes more to the northeast in Kansas, and D4 expands in western Kansas and connects up with a growing area of D4 in western Oklahoma. In addition, water emergencies and shortage concerns in several communities result in a new D4 region in east central Kansas over into extreme west central Missouri. The only real area of improvement noted this week is in the Black Hills region of South Dakota, where generally cooler weather and recovering streamflows lead to a small improvement from D3 to D2, which extends into extreme northeastern Wyoming. After some improvement of late, the heat and dryness bring the return of a bit more D0-D3 into the Panhandle and western reaches of Texas. The other change of note this week lies in northern Louisiana after a recent dry spell led to a slight southward push of D0 and D1 there.

The West: The West saw a mixed bag of results over the past week with the monsoon rains bringing relief to some and nothing much to many others. A slight expansion of D1 this week is noted in Montana on the heels of an expansion of D0 northward to the Canadian border last week. Most of Colorado remains unchanged this week but the heat and dryness does lead to a joining of the D4 between east central CO and western Kansas. The D3 also extends out of southeast Colorado and the Oklahoma Panhandle into more of northeastern New Mexico along with a slight push westward of the D2 in north central New Mexico this week. Northwestern New Mexico has benefitted from a good start to the monsoon, leading to a reduction of D2 and D3 in the northwestern part of the state into the eastern edge of the Navajo Nation lands. Longer-term conditions and impacts in the Navajo Nation have led to a state of emergency Executive Proclamation due to the extreme conditions on their lands in the Four Corner region.

Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico: Conditions remain unchanged on this week’s map for Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico.

Looking Ahead: The 5-day forecast (Aug. 8-12) shows a shift in the heat from the country’s mid-section to the West as high pressure builds in there. This leaves prospects for precipitation high and dry for most locations west of the Rockies and increases the chances for the wet stuff over the Midwest, Northeast, Great Lakes, Gulf Coast and Atlantic coastal reaches of the Carolinas and Georgia. Above-normal temperatures will accompany the high pressure in the West and the cool down to the east of the Rockies will be a welcomed respite for most of the Great Plains and Midwest.

For the period Aug. 13-17, above-normal temperatures are more likely across Alaska, the Southwest, Great Basin, southern Rockies and southern Plains. Interestingly, no regions are forecasted to see below-normal temperatures during this period. The chances for below-normal precipitation are greatest in eastern and central Alaska, the southern Plains and lower Midwest while the odds of above-normal rains are best situated over the Southwest, northern Plains and eastern Montana as well as along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast from Florida northward to Virginia.


Drought: 1,369 Counties Named Disaster Areas

July 26, 2012 by · Comments Off on Drought: 1,369 Counties Named Disaster Areas 

The following Drought Monitor information is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

Weather Summary: A strong upper-level ridge of high pressure continued to dominate the nation’s weather this U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) week, bringing well above-normal temperatures to much of the country east of the Rockies. Beneath the core of the high, hot and dry weather baked the central and southern Plains to Ohio Valley.

Monsoon showers and thunderstorms brought areas of rain to the West, cool fronts moving along the high’s northern edge triggered scattered showers and thunderstorms in the northern tier states, and a front skirting the high dropped beneficial rain along its eastern and southern peripheries.

July 22 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports indicated that 55 percent of the nation’s pasture and rangeland was in poor to very poor condition, breaking last week’s record. In the Plains and Midwest states, crop losses mounted, ranchers liquidated herds, and trees continued to drop leaves and branches. On July 25, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack designated 76 additional counties in six states as drought disaster areas, bringing the total for the 2012 crop year to 1,369 counties across 31 states. Over two dozen large wildfires were burning by the end of the USDM week – most in the West but several in the Plains.

Looking Ahead: Forecast models for July 25-30 show a front piercing the upper-level high early in the period, bringing scattered showers and thunderstorms to Great Plains and Midwest core drought area. Rainfall amounts may reach an inch in places, with a few locations receiving possibly 2 or more inches. The heaviest amounts from the front and low pressure system are expected to be in the Upper Great Lakes and Northeast, where locally 3 inches or more of rain may fall.

Parts of the South could see an inch or more of rain as the front makes its way to the Gulf Coast. Monsoon showers could drop up to an inch of rain, total, across the Four Corners states, and frontal rains in the Northern Rockies could bring scattered light showers, but the rest of the West should be dry. Temperatures may dip from the frontal passage, but the week should average warmer than normal for most of the country.

For July 31-Aug. 8, dry weather is expected to dominate from the West Coast to Northern Rockies, and from the Central to Southern Plains. Above-normal precipitation is forecast for the Southwest and from the Upper Mississippi Valley to Ohio Valley, parts of the Southeast, and from the Mid-Atlantic states to coastal Northeast.

Above-normal temperatures are expected for much of the country, especially the Rockies and Plains states, while below-normal temperatures may hug the West Coast. Western Alaska is forecast to be wetter than normal, northern Alaska warmer than normal, and the southern areas cooler than normal.

Drought Worsens But Scattered Relief is on the Way

July 12, 2012 by · Comments Off on Drought Worsens But Scattered Relief is on the Way 

Drought Monitor. Map courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Editor’s Note: The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued its weekly Drought Monitor today (July 12). Highlights of that report follow.

Weather Summary: Rainfall was more abundant than last week. A broken pattern of moderate to locally heavy rains (isolated totals up to 5 inches) covered the central and southern Plains, the northernmost Plains and Great Lakes region, the immediate Ohio Valley, and a good chunk of the Southeast and interior mid-Atlantic.

However, the heavier amounts were fairly isolated, and with the hot weather that covered much of the central and eastern United States, only a few scattered areas of dryness and drought experienced significant improvement.

In addition, the areas with the greatest temperature anomalies (average daily maxima 10 to 13 degrees above normal) generally coincided with an area of scant rainfall across the Midwest, northwestern Ohio Valley, and southern Great Plains, resulting in another week of widespread deterioration and expansion of dryness and drought in these regions.

In the hottest areas last week, which were generally dry, crop conditions deteriorated quickly. In the 18 primary corn-growing states, 30 percent of the crop is now in poor or very poor condition, up from 22 percent the previous week. In addition, fully half of the nation’s pastures and ranges are in poor or very poor condition, up from 28 percent in mid-June. The hot, dry conditions have also allowed for a dramatic increase in wildfire activity since mid-June. During the past 3 weeks, the year-to-date acreage burned by wildfires increased from 1.1 million to 3.1 million as of this writing.

Looking Ahead: Moderate to heavy rain could be on tap for at least part of the areas covered by dryness and drought during July 11-16, 2012. More than an inch is forecast across a large swath from southern and eastern Texas eastward across the Gulf Coast and Florida, and northeastward through the lower Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee Valleys, the central and southern Appalachians, and much of the south Atlantic states north of central Georgia.

Three to five inches are possible in southeastern Texas and adjacent Louisiana, across the upper Southeast, in the lower Ohio Valley, and the Tennessee Valley as far east as the Appalachian foothills.

Moderate rain (0.5 to 1.0 inch) is forecast for the mid-Atlantic, lower Northeast, part of the northern Plains, and a few spots in the central and southern Rockies.

Light rain should prevail in other dry areas, except in the southwestern Great Lakes region, the middle Mississippi Valley, and the central and south-central Plains, where little or none is anticipated. Temperatures should continue their moderating trend, with somewhat above-normal readings confined to the Northeast, the northern Rockies and Intermountain West, and the northern half of the High Plains.


For the ensuing 5 days (July 17-21, 2012), the odds favor above normal rain from the upper Mississippi Valley southeastward to the South Carolina Coast and eastward through lower New England. Southeastern Texas and the southeastern Rockies also have enhanced chances for above normal rainfall. In contrast, the northern Rockies are expected to measure sub-normal rainfall totals, as are areas from western Utah and Arizona westward through California.

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