Thursday, March 05, 2015
Current U.S. Drought Monitor

NOTE: To view regional drought conditions, click on map above. State maps can be accessed from regional maps

The data cutoff for Drought Monitor maps is Tuesday at 7 a.m. EST. The maps, which are based on analysis of the data, are released each Thursday at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

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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.

For local details and impacts, please contact your State Climatologist or Regional Climate Center

National Drought Summary for Mar 3, 2015

Summary

This U.S. Drought Monitor week saw an active pattern nationwide as a series of storms delivered much-needed rain and mountain snow to portions of the Southwest and a wintery mix of freezing rain and snow to the lower Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and the Southern Tier from Texas to Georgia. Significant snowfall accumulations were observed in the mountains of northern Arizona, southwestern Colorado, northern New Mexico, and southwestern Utah helping to improve snowpack conditions. In the South, heavy rains fell across portions of Louisiana and Mississippi, while freezing rain and snow dipped as far south as Alabama and Georgia. In the Northeast, snow showers and cold temperatures persisted. Average temperatures east of the Continental Divide were well below normal, dipping up to 20°F below normal in the South, Southern Plains, Midwest, and Northeast. Out West, temperatures were slightly below normal except for portions of the Pacific Northwest where temperatures hovered slightly above normal.

Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico

In the Hawaiian Islands, temperatures during the past week were above normal, especially in Kauai and along the Kona Coast of the Big Island. Some light- to-moderate precipitation (1 to 4 inches) fell in portions of Kauai, Maui, and on the windward side of the Big Island. On the map, short-term precipitation deficits (during the past 30 days) and low streamflow conditions led to expansion of areas of Moderate Drought (D1) on the leeward side of Oahu. In Alaska, temperatures were well above normal across most of the state with areas in the eastern Interior and North Slope reaching 20°F above normal during the last seven days. Since the beginning of the Water Year (October 1), temperatures across the state have been above normal (2°F to 8°F). Precipitation for the week was near normal in the northern half of the state while south central and southeastern Alaska was below normal. According to the NRCS SNOTEL network, the snowpack in Alaska is well below normal across most of the state with the exception of the Chena Basin in the Interior. Poor snowpack conditions led to the introduction of Abnormally Dry (D0) across the Talkeetna Range, western portions of the Chugach Mountains, Kenai Peninsula, and the coastal mountains in Prince William Sound. In Puerto Rico, conditions remained status quo on the map.

Mid-Atlantic

The Mid-Atlantic remained drought-free on this week’s map, and no changes were made. During the past week, a mix of snow, sleet, and freezing rain affected much of the region with the highest liquid accumulations (1.5 to 2.5 inches) observed along the central and eastern portions of North Carolina. The unseasonably cold air that had settled into the region allowed for snow to fall in the lower elevations in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain areas of North Carolina and Virginia. Otherwise, liquid precipitation accumulations in Virginia and western North Carolina were generally less than 1 inch. Average temperatures for the week were 6° to 15° degrees below normal.

Midwest

During the past week, temperatures were well below normal across the entire region with areas in eastern Iowa, northern Illinois, northern Indiana, and northern Ohio experiencing average temperatures in excess of 20°F below normal. In portions of Missouri, central Illinois, central Indiana, and Ohio, light to moderate snowfall accumulations were observed last week. Above normal precipitation (during the past 30 days) helped to improve streamflow and soil moisture conditions in Kentucky leading to one-category improvements in areas of Moderate Drought (D1) and Abnormally Dry (D0). According to the National Weather Service National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center (NOHRSC) snow analysis, the Northern Great Lakes region is currently 99.4% covered by snow with an average snow depth of 13.5” while the Midwest region is currently 38% covered by snow.

The Northeast

The Northeast remained drought-free on the map this week as cold temperatures and snow continued. According to the National Weather Service National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center (NOHRSC) snow analysis, the Northeast is currently 99.2% covered by snow with an average depth of 24 inches. As of March 1, the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Boston reported that several locations experienced their snowiest winter on record including Boston (99.4”) and Worcester, MA (101.4”). Average temperatures for the week were 8–20°F below normal.

The Plains

Across the Plains states, temperatures were well below normal for the period with the greatest departures observed in the Southern Plains. Overall, the Northern Plains were generally dry during the past week, while a mix of freezing rain and snow shower activity impacted the Southern Plains. The only changes on this week’s map were made in north-central Oklahoma where short-term precipitation deficits and deteriorating local pond conditions led to expansion of Extreme Drought (D3) in north-central Oklahoma.

The South

The South experienced unseasonably cold temperatures and a wintery mix of freezing rain, sleet, and snow during the past week. Light snow was observed from East Texas through Arkansas as well as northern portions of Louisiana and Mississippi while east-central Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi experienced locally heavy rains. Rainfall accumulations in portions of Louisiana and Mississippi ranged from 2 to 6 inches leading to improvements in areas of Moderate Drought (D1). In Arkansas and western Tennessee, improved soil moisture and streamflow conditions led to one-category improvements in areas of Abnormally Dry (D0), Moderate Drought (D1), and Severe Drought (D2). In Texas, near-to-above normal precipitation during the past 60 days led to minor improvements in reservoir conditions in the north-central area, primarily in Dallas reservoirs, which are currently at 68.6% full, according to Water Data for Texas. In response, one-category improvements were made in areas of Exceptional Drought (D4), Extreme Drought (D3), and Severe Drought (D2). In the Texas Panhandle, above normal precipitation during the last 60 days led to minor improvements in areas of Severe Drought (D2) and Moderate Drought (D1). Overall, temperatures across the entire region were well below normal (10°F to 25°F) during the past week.

The Southeast

During the past week, the Southeast experienced wintery weather with northern portions of Alabama and Georgia experiencing snow, sleet, and freezing rain including nearly a foot of snow in areas of northwestern Alabama. Liquid precipitation accumulations ranged from one-to-four inches with the highest accumulations observed in northwestern Alabama, southern Georgia, and southeastern South Carolina. The cold air that penetrated the region extended as far south as northern Florida in contrast to near-to-above normal temperatures in central and southern Florida. On the map, this week’s precipitation events, combined with cold temperatures, helped to improve soil moisture and streamflow conditions leading to improvements in areas of Abnormally Dry (D0) and Moderate Drought (D1) in Alabama and Georgia. In south Florida, pockets of locally heavy rains (4 to 11 inches) fell in portions of Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Collier counties leading to improvements in areas of Abnormally Dry (D0).

The West

A series of storms starting late last week impacted the region with significant snowfall accumulations (12 to 24 inches) observed in the mountains of northern Arizona, southwestern Colorado, southwestern Utah, and northern New Mexico. The storms helped to boost snowpack conditions to normal in several drainage basins in Arizona and New Mexico including San Francisco Peaks of northern Arizona (104% of normal) and the Cimarron and Sangre De Cristo Range of New Mexico (125% and 100% of normal, respectively). However, the storms did not have an impact on the mountains of central Arizona and southwestern New Mexico where the current snowpack conditions remain well below normal. On the map, improvements were made in areas of Extreme Drought (D3) on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and in the Chuska Mountains in the Four Corners along the Arizona-New Mexico border. Additionally, areas of Severe Drought (D2) were reduced to Moderate Drought (D1) along the Arizona-Utah border. In California, the Sierra Nevada Range snowpack remains in very poor condition despite some moderate snowfall accumulations in the central portions during the weekend. According to the Department of Water Resources latest snow survey, the snow water content of the Sierra Nevada snowpack is currently 19% of normal. In the Pacific Northwest, snowpack conditions are equally poor – ranging from 9% to 47% of normal in the Cascades of Oregon and Washington. In west-central Idaho, below normal snowpack conditions in the Weiser Basin (43% of normal) led to the expansion of Moderate Drought (D1) as well as expansion of Severe Drought (D2) in south-central Idaho where unseasonably warm temperatures are prematurely melting the snowpack.

Looking Ahead

The NWS WPC5-Day Quantitative Precipitation Forecast (QPF) calls for light- to-moderate liquid precipitation accumulations (generally less than 2 inches) in the southeastern quarter of the U.S. with greatest accumulations (1 to 2 inches) centered over Arkansas, Tennessee, and West Virginia. The West, Northern Plains, and Upper Midwest are forecasted to be generally dry. The 6–10 day outlooks call for a high probability of above-normal temperatures across the West, High Plains, Upper Midwest, and the Southeast while below-normal temperatures are forecasted for eastern New Mexico, Texas, and the Northeast. A high probability of above-normal precipitation is forecasted across the Pacific Northwest, northern California, and along the southern tier from New Mexico to the Southeast.


Author(s):
David Simeral, Western Regional Climate Center

View a printable narrative here.

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