Monday, March 27, 2017

U.S. Drought Monitor News Archive

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U.S. drought coverage increases sharply in November

Dec 1, 2016

By Brad Rippey, USDA Meteorologist, Office of the Chief Economist, World Agricultural Outlook Board, Washington, D.C.

During the 4-week period ending on November 29, 2016, contiguous U.S. drought (D1 to D4) coverage increased sharply from 26.80 to 31.46 percent—up 4.66 percentage points.  Since reaching an autumn minimum of 18.34 percent of the country in drought on September 13, coverage has increased 13.12 percentage points.  Other subsets of drought coverage also increased between November 1 and 29: exceptional drought (D4) increased from 1.71 to 2.68 percent, extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4) increased from 4.86 to 8.66 percent, and severe to exceptional drought (D2 to D4) increased from 10.95 to 16.60 percent.

The increases in drought coverage were driven by rapidly worsening conditions in the Southeast.  However, substantial rain arrived across much of the southeastern drought area November 28-30.  Record-setting streaks without measurable rainfall ended abruptly in locations such as Tuscaloosa, Alabama (71 days from September 18 to November 27), and Atlanta, Georgia (43 days from October 17 to November 28).  Before the late-month rainfall, on November 27, USDA rated topsoil moisture 100 percent very short to short in Alabama, along with 98 percent in Georgia, 81 percent in Tennessee, and 76 percent in Kentucky and Mississippi.  On the same date, USDA rated pastures at least three-quarters in very poor to poor condition in Alabama (95 percent), Georgia (81 percent), and Tennessee (79 percent).  Ironically, one of the most visible and tragic drought-related impacts occurred on November 28 as rain approached and began to fall across the Great Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee.  That afternoon and evening, in advance of a cold front, wind gusts of 40 to 60 mph or higher fanned and spread the 5-day-old Chimney Tops fire, which rapidly expanded to encompass more than 17,000 acres in and near Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  In the ensuing tragedy, there were at least seven fatalities and approximately 700 structures destroyed.

By November 29, exceptional drought (D4) covered nearly one-third (33 percent) of Alabama and Georgia, along with 14 percent of Tennessee, 6 percent of South Carolina, 4 percent of North Carolina, and 3 percent of Mississippi.  Extreme drought (D3) or worse blanketed 97 percent of Alabama, 71 percent of Mississippi, 62 percent of Georgia, and 60 percent of Tennessee.  The southeastern drought has lasted long enough to begin affecting water supplies.  In northern Georgia, the surface elevation of Lake Lanier dipped to 1060.7 feet by late November, 10.3 feet below full pool and 9.7 feet below a year ago.  Lake Lanier’s lowest level on record occurred in December 2007, when the surface elevation fell to 1050.8 feet.

Meanwhile, late-autumn precipitation provided parts of the Northeast with drought relief. Northeastern regional drought coverage peaked at 55 percent—the highest since 2002—on November 22.  Despite recent precipitation, topsoil moisture was rated 85 percent very short to short in Connecticut on November 27, along with 66 percent in New Hampshire and 46 percent in Vermont.  By November 29, a ribbon of lingering extreme drought (D3) stretched across southern New England, covering 44 percent of Connecticut, 41 percent of Massachusetts, and 5 percent of New Hampshire.

Although 58 percent of the U.S. winter wheat crop was rated good to excellent on November 27, there were some drought-related issues (e.g., uneven emergence, poor establishment) on the central and southern High Plains, and 27 percent of the U.S. winter wheat production area was in drought on November 29, up from an early-autumn low of 8 percent.  In five of the Plains states (CO, KS, NE, OK, and TX), the portion of the wheat crop rated very poor to poor on November 27 ranged from 12 to 16 percent.  By November 29, severe drought (D2) covered more than 10 percent of Kansas—all in the southwestern part of the state where late-November topsoil moisture was rated 80 percent very short to short.

On November 1, drought was affecting 32 percent of the U.S. cattle inventory, up from 14 percent in early autumn.  Similarly, 33 percent of the nation’s hay area was in drought, up from 14 percent as recently as mid-September.  Some of the most visible drought impacts on cattle and hay have been reported in the southeastern drought area, where surface water has become scarce and supplemental feeding of livestock has been ongoing for weeks or months because of abysmal pasture conditions.

Drought coverage in the Northwest remained minimal during November because of ongoing showery weather.  A few northwestern areas, including eastern Oregon, continued to grapple with long-term water supply issues.  In California, statewide drought coverage stood at 73 percent on November 29—the lowest in more than 3.5 years, since April 30, 2013.  Nearly all of California’s drought-free area was in the northern part of the state, but extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4) still covered 43 percent of the state.  A recent report from USDA stated that aerial surveys have indicated that there are more than 100 million dead trees in California, with the majority located in ten counties in the central and southern Sierra Nevada.

Short-term weather outlook: A brief period of generally tranquil conditions will soon be replaced by a return to active weather.  On Friday, precipitation will develop across the south-central United States and overspread the Pacific Northwest.  During the weekend, rain will become heavy across parts of the South, while showery weather will engulf the northern half of the West.  Five-day rainfall totals could reach 2 to 6 inches across the South, excluding the southern Atlantic region; 1 to 4 inches in the Pacific Northwest; and 1 to 3 inches in the northern Rockies.  Higher Northwestern elevations will receive significant snow.  In contrast, mostly dry weather will prevail into next week from southern California into the Desert Southwest, and from the central High Plains into the upper Midwest.

Please Note:  The next issuance of this drought update will be Thursday, January 5, 2017, unless conditions warrant an earlier release. 

 

The “U.S. Crops in Drought” products will be produced weekly, and are online:

http://www.usda.gov/oce/weather/Drought/AgInDrought.pdf

 

Archived “U.S. Crops in Drought” files are online:

http://drought.unl.edu/Planning/Impacts/USAginDroughtArchive.aspx

U.S. drought coverage increases as conditions deteriorate in the Southeast

Nov 3, 2016

By Brad Rippey, USDA Meteorologist, Office of the Chief Economist, World Agricultural Outlook Board, Washington, D.C.

During the 4-week period ending on November 1, 2016, contiguous U.S. drought (D1 to D4) coverage increased sharply to 26.80 percent—up 7.36 percentage points.  Other subsets of drought coverage also increased between October 4 and November 1: exceptional drought (D4) increased from 1.17 to 1.71 percent, extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4) increased from 3.14 to 4.86 percent, and severe to exceptional drought (D2 to D4) increased from 8.37 to 10.95 percent.

The increases in drought coverage have been driven by rapidly worsening conditions in the Southeast.  Measurable rain has not fallen in parts of Alabama and Mississippi since mid-September, accompanied by chronically and unusually high temperatures.  By October 30, USDA/NASS rated at least one-half of the pastures in very poor to poor condition in Tennessee (65 percent), Georgia (63 percent), and Alabama (52 percent).  USDA/NASS also indicated that topsoil moisture was at least three-quarters very short to short in Mississippi (83 percent), Georgia (80 percent), Louisiana (79 percent), Tennessee (78 percent), and Alabama (76 percent).  Due to dryness, winter wheat planting is substantially behind schedule in several southeastern states, including Alabama (15 percent planted on October 30 vs. the 5-year average of 30 percent) and Louisiana (9 percent planted vs. 27 percent).

Exceptional drought (D4) has developed across parts of the Southeast in recent weeks and currently covers 15 percent of Alabama, 14 percent of Georgia, and 5 percent of Tennessee.  Extreme drought (D3) or worse is affecting 52 percent of Alabama and just under 50 percent of Georgia.  Other southeastern states reporting D3 or worse are Mississippi (27 percent), Tennessee (15 percent), South Carolina (12 percent), and North Carolina (5 percent).  The southeastern drought has lasted long enough to begin affecting water supplies.  In northern Georgia, the surface elevation of Lake Lanier dipped to 1,062.3 feet in early November, 8.7 feet below full pool and 6.7 feet below a year ago.  Lake Lanier’s lowest level on record occurred in December 2007, when the surface elevation dipped to 1050.8 feet.

Meanwhile, autumn precipitation has provided much of the Northeast with some drought relief.  Northeastern regional drought coverage peaked at 53 percent—the highest since 2002—on October 18, but has fallen 2 percentage points in the last 2 weeks.  Northeastern extreme drought (D3) coverage fell to 1.37 percent by November 1, down from an autumn peak of 6.68 percent.  However, northeastern pastures have been slow to recover, with 82 percent rated very poor to poor in Maine on October 30, along with 55 percent in Massachusetts, 45 percent in New Hampshire, and 44 percent in Vermont.

Although 58 percent of the U.S. winter wheat crop was rated good to excellent on October 30, there were some drought-related issues (e.g., uneven emergence, poor establishment) on the central and southern High Plains.  By the first of November, 15 percent of the U.S. winter wheat production area was in drought, up from an early-autumn low of 8 percent.  In Texas, 17 percent of the winter wheat was rated very poor to poor on October 30, according to USDA/NASS.

On November 1, drought was affecting 25 percent of the U.S. cattle inventory, up from 14 percent in early autumn.  Similarly, 27 percent of the nation’s hay area was in drought, up from 14 percent as recently as mid-September.

In the last 4 weeks, the portion of the U.S. corn and soybean production areas in drought has increased—from 2 to 9 percent for corn and from 3 to 15 percent for soybeans.  Most of the change has been driven by the escalating southeastern drought.  However, with the exception of late-planted soybeans, crops were mostly mature when conditions deteriorated.  Still, many southeastern row crops had been hurt by an earlier round of heat and drought during the summer.

Exceptionally wet weather covered the northwestern half of the western U.S. during October.  As a result, nearly all drought was eradicated from the Northwest, except for some lingering, long-term water supply issues.  Some of the improvement reached northern California, helping statewide drought coverage to dip to 75 percent by November 1, down from 84 percent a month ago.  However, extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4) remains deeply entrenched across 43 percent of California, owing to massive 5-year precipitation deficits and related impacts across central and southern portions of the state.

Short-term weather outlook:  A cold front will push eastward, clearing the Atlantic Coast (except Florida’s peninsula) by Friday, but the tail of the front will stall across the Deep South.  Specifically, a multi-day rain event could result in 1- to 4-inch totals from eastern Arizona to Texas, providing significant relief from short-term dryness.  Most of the remainder of the United States, except the Pacific Northwest, will receive little or no precipitation during the next 5 days.  In addition, late-season warmth will continue to dominate the country, except for cool conditions along the Atlantic Seaboard.  In particular, record-setting warmth can be expected across the northern Plains and upper Midwest. 

Please Note:  The next issuance of this drought update will be Thursday, December 1, 2016, unless conditions warrant an earlier release. 

 

The “U.S. Crops in Drought” products will be produced weekly, and are online:

http://www.usda.gov/oce/weather/Drought/AgInDrought.pdf

 

Archived “U.S. Crops in Drought” files are online:

http://drought.unl.edu/Planning/Impacts/USAginDroughtArchive.aspx

U.S. drought coverage decreases during August, but intensifies in Northeast

Sep 8, 2016

By Brad Rippey, USDA Meteorologist, Office of the Chief Economist, World Agricultural Outlook Board, Washington, D.C.

During the 5-week period ending on September 6, 2016, contiguous U.S. drought coverage decreased to 19.10 percent—down 2.02 percentage points.  While many drought-affected locations in the central and eastern U.S. have experienced improving conditions in recent weeks, a few areas have not.  Specifically, drought further intensified during August and early September in parts of the Northeast, which collectively is experiencing its worst drought since 2002.  At the height of the 2002 Northeastern drought, 70 percent of the region was in drought and nearly 20 percent of the region was in extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4).  Currently, 28 percent of the Northeast is in drought, while 4 percent of the region is in extreme drought (D3).

In the last 5 weeks, the portion of both the U.S. corn and soybean production areas in drought has declined to 3 percent—down from 6 and 7 percent, respectively, on August 2.  Among the major production states, Ohio led with 25 percent of its corn production area and 24 percent of its soybean area in drought on September 6.  Ohio also led the U.S.—tied with Pennsylvania—with 19 percent of its corn rated in very poor to poor condition on September 4, according to USDA/NASS.  Despite local drought issues, Midwestern crops were overall faring well, with 74 percent of the U.S. corn and 73 percent of the soybeans rated in good to excellent condition on September 4.

On September 6, drought was affecting 15 percent of the U.S. cattle inventory, down from 18 percent on August 2.  Similarly, 14 percent of the nation’s hay area was in drought, down from 17 percent in early August.  According to USDA/NASS, 53 percent of the U.S. rangeland and pastures were rated good to excellent on September 4, while only 16 percent were rated very poor to poor.  States reporting at least one-third of their rangeland and pastures in very poor to poor condition on September 4 included Oregon (54 percent), California (40 percent), Nevada (40 percent), Pennsylvania (39 percent), Montana (36 percent), and five of the six New England States, led by Massachusetts (88 percent).

In recent weeks, extreme drought (D3) made its first appearance in the Northeast since September 2010, and achieved its greatest regional coverage since late-summer 2002.  By September 6, extreme drought covered 23 percent of Massachusetts, 13 percent of New Hampshire, and 10 percent of New York.  Farther south, lingering pockets of D3 covered 5 percent of Georgia – down from 13 percent on August 2.  Meanwhile, 84 percent of California was in drought (D1 or worse) on September 6, while 43 percent was considered to be in extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4).

Short-term weather outlook:  A slow-moving frontal boundary will remain the focus for showers and thunderstorms across the nation’s mid-section through Friday.  Additional showers could develop across the same region late in the weekend.  As a result, 5-day rainfall totals should reach 2 to 5 inches from the east-central Plains into the lower Midwest, including the middle Mississippi Valley.  Elsewhere, little or no rain will fall across the Far West and the Southeast, except for scattered showers in southern Florida.  Late-season warmth in many parts of the country will be replaced by a surge of markedly cooler air early next week across the western and central U.S.

Please Note:  The next issuance of this drought update will be Thursday, October 6, 2016, unless conditions warrant an earlier release. 

 

The “U.S. Crops in Drought” products will be produced weekly, and are online:

http://www.usda.gov/oce/weather/Drought/AgInDrought.pdf

 

Archived “U.S. Crops in Drought” files are online:

http://drought.unl.edu/Planning/Impacts/USAginDroughtArchive.aspx

U.S. drought coverage nearly doubled since March 2016

Aug 4, 2016

By Brad Rippey, USDA Meteorologist, Office of the Chief Economist, World Agricultural Outlook Board, Washington, D.C.

During the 4-week period ending on August 2, 2016, contiguous U.S. drought coverage increased to 21.12 percent—up 3.35 percentage points.  Drought coverage has nearly doubled since reaching a 5½-year minimum of 12.41 percent on March 15, 2016.  During the summer of 2016, drought coverage and intensity has increased in several areas across the Plains, South, and Northeast, but has mostly shrunk in the Midwest—except in the lower Great Lakes region.

In the last 4 weeks, the portion of both the U.S. corn and soybean production areas in drought remained nearly unchanged at 5 to 7 percent.  Among the major production states, Ohio led with 53 percent of its corn production area and 50 percent of its soybean area in drought on August 2.  Looking at the Midwestern States, only Ohio (13 percent), Michigan (12 percent), and South Dakota (11 percent) reported at least one-tenth of their corn in very poor to poor condition on July 31, according to USDA/NASS.  Similarly, Midwestern soybeans were rated at least one-tenth very poor to poor only in Michigan (12 percent) and Ohio (11 percent).  Still, Midwestern crops were mostly faring well, with 76 percent of the U.S. corn and 72 percent of the soybeans rated in good to excellent condition on July 31.

On August 2, drought was affecting 18 percent of the U.S. cattle inventory, up from 15 percent on July 5.  Similarly, 17 percent of the nation’s hay area was in drought, up from 14 percent in early July.  Nevertheless, 51 percent of the U.S. rangeland and pastures were rated good to excellent on July 31, while only 17 percent were rated very poor to poor.  States reporting at least one-quarter of their rangeland and pastures in very poor to poor condition on July 31 included California (40 percent), Oregon (40 percent), Pennsylvania (40 percent), Georgia (37 percent), South Carolina (37 percent), Arizona (36 percent), Ohio (29 percent), Montana (29 percent), Michigan (28 percent), Alabama (26 percent), New Mexico (26 percent), Nevada (25 percent), and all six New England States—led by Connecticut (78 percent).

In recent weeks, extreme drought (D3) has returned to a few areas east of the Rockies, including the Black Hills and the southern Appalachians.  On August 2, extreme drought covered just over 5 percent of South Dakota and nearly 4 percent of Wyoming.  In the Southeast, coverage of D3 approached 13 percent in Georgia, was nearly 3 percent in Alabama, was just under 2 percent in South Carolina and Tennessee, and topped 1 percent in Mississippi.  Blobs of severe drought (D2) covered parts of the Northeast, with D2 coverage by August 2 reaching 62 percent in Massachusetts, 24 percent in New York, 22 percent in New Hampshire, 21 percent in Rhode Island, and 10 percent in Connecticut.  Meanwhile, 84 percent of California was in drought (D1 or worse) on August 2, while 43 percent was considered to be in extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4).

Short-term weather outlook:  Active weather will prevail during the next several days in the Southeast and Southwest, with 2- to 4-inch totals possible in portions of both regions.  Five-day totals of up to 8 inches could occur along Florida’s Gulf coast.  Meanwhile, some of the Southwestern showers will spill across the central Plains, where rainfall could reach 1 to 3 inches.  Farther north, showers associated with a cold front will sweep across the nation’s northern tier, reaching the Northeast by August 5-6.  In contrast, hot, dry weather will persist on the southern Plains.

Please Note:  The next issuance of this drought update will be Thursday, September 8, 2016, unless conditions warrant an earlier release. 

 

The “U.S. Crops in Drought” products will be produced weekly, and are online:

http://www.usda.gov/oce/weather/Drought/AgInDrought.pdf

 

Archived “U.S. Crops in Drought” files are online:

http://drought.unl.edu/Planning/Impacts/USAginDroughtArchive.aspx

U.S. drought coverage increases in June 2016

Jul 7, 2016

By Brad Rippey, USDA Meteorologist, Office of the Chief Economist, World Agricultural Outlook Board, Washington, D.C.

During the 5-week period ending on July 5, 2016, contiguous U.S. drought coverage increased to 17.77 percent—up 5.04 percentage points.  Since the end of May, there have been several areas of emerging short-term drought, most notably across the interior Southeast and from the lower Great Lakes region into the Northeast.  Pockets of drought have also developed across the northern Plains and upper Midwest, and have returned to the Northwest.

In the last 5 weeks, the portion of both the U.S. corn and soybean production areas in drought increased from less than 1 percent to 7 percent.  Among the major production states, Michigan led with 31 percent of its corn production area in drought by July 5.  Nearly one-third of the soybean production area was in drought by July 5 in Mississippi (31 percent) and Michigan (29 percent).  Still, U.S. crops were mostly faring well, with 75 percent of the corn and 70 percent of the soybeans rated in good to excellent condition on July 3, according to USDA/NASS.  Among Midwestern states, Michigan led with 12 percent of both corn and soybeans rated in very poor to poor condition on July 3.

On July 5, drought was affecting 15 percent of the U.S. cattle inventory, up from 10 percent at the end of May.  Similarly, 14 percent of the nation’s hay area was in drought, up from 8 percent on May 31.  Nevertheless, 59 percent of the U.S. rangeland and pastures were rated good to excellent on July 3, while only 12 percent were rated very poor to poor.  States reporting at least one-fifth of their rangeland and pastures in very poor to poor condition on July 3 included Vermont (62 percent), Connecticut (39 percent), California (35 percent), Massachusetts (33 percent), Oregon (28 percent), Georgia (28 percent), Arizona (27 percent), Michigan (23 percent), Tennessee (23 percent), Montana (22 percent), Alabama (21 percent) and New Mexico (20 percent).

Central and southern California remained the epicenter of long-term drought, as Los Angeles recently completed its driest 5-year period (July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2016) on record.  Statewide, 84 percent of California was in drought (D1 or worse) on July 3, while 43 percent was considered to be in extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4).  California’s coverage of exceptional drought (D4) has fallen from 46 to 21 percent since October 1, 2015.  Elsewhere in the West, drought (D1 or worse) coverage during the 5 weeks ending July 3 included 59 percent in Arizona, 50 percent in Oregon, and 34 percent in Nevada.  Across the Plains and Midwest, drought coverage on July 3 stood at 38 percent in South Dakota, 18 percent in Iowa, and 16 percent in Michigan.  In the Northeast, drought covered more than half (55 percent) of Massachusetts, along with 43 percent of Connecticut, 42 percent of New Hampshire, 41 percent of New York, and 40 percent of New Jersey.  Finally, in the Southeast, July 3 coverage of drought reached 43 percent in Alabama, 42 percent in Mississippi, 40 percent in Tennessee, and 34 percent in Georgia.

Short-term weather outlook:  During the next several days, a series of disturbances will traverse the northern U.S.  As a result, 5-day rainfall totals could reach 1 to 3 inches across the nation’s northern tier, with amounts approaching 5 inches in parts of northern New England.  Significant rainfall (locally 1 to 3 inches) can also be expected across the upper Midwest, the interior Southeast, and the southern Mid-Atlantic region.  In contrast, little or no rain will occur across the Deep South and from California to Texas.  Meanwhile, a heat wave will continue across the southern High Plains, while unusually cool conditions will dominate the Northwest.  Elsewhere, briefly cooler air will surge across the Midwest toward week’s end, followed by a warming trend.

Please Note:  The next issuance of this drought update will be Thursday, August 4, 2016, unless conditions warrant an earlier release. 

 

The “U.S. Crops in Drought” products will be produced weekly, and are online:

http://www.usda.gov/oce/weather/Drought/AgInDrought.pdf

 

Archived “U.S. Crops in Drought” files are online:

http://drought.unl.edu/Planning/Impacts/USAginDroughtArchive.aspx

U.S. crops and pastures generally good to excellent in May 2016

Jun 2, 2016

By Brad Rippey, USDA Meteorologist, Office of the Chief Economist, World Agricultural Outlook Board, Washington, D.C.

During the 4-week period ending on May 31, 2016, contiguous U.S. drought coverage decreased to 12.73 percent—down 1.83 percentage points.  Aside from lingering, long-term drought in parts of California and the Southwest, U.S. drought is mostly short term in nature and limited to an area centered on the southern Appalachians.

Since a weather pattern change in mid-April, showery weather has covered much of the nation, including the Great Plains.  By May 31, only 2 percent of the U.S. winter wheat production area was affected by drought, down from 19 percent on April 12.  Based on USDA crop conditions reported for May 29, U.S. winter wheat was rated 63 percent good to excellent and 8 percent very poor to poor.  In the last two decades, only 1998, 1999, and 2010 featured higher late-May crop ratings for U.S. winter wheat.

On May 31, drought was affecting just 10 percent of the U.S. cattle inventory, down from a recent maximum of 19 percent on April 12.  Similarly, only 8 percent of the nation’s hay area was in drought, down from an April 12 peak of 12 percent.  Not surprisingly, given the widespread spring rainfall, nearly two-thirds (66 percent) of the U.S. rangeland and pastures were rated in good to excellent condition on May 29.  During the last 22 years, U.S. rangeland and pasture conditions were higher at the end of May only twice—in 1995 and 2010.  All three—1995, 2010, and 2016—featured El Niño in progress as the year began.

On May 31, the nation’s corn and soybean production areas remained mostly free of drought—less than 1 percent drought coverage for both commodities.  On May 29, the first U.S. corn condition report of the season indicated that crop was rated 72 percent good to excellent and just 4 percent very poor to poor—on par with, but slightly below, the ratings at the same time last year (74 percent good to excellent and 3 percent very poor to poor).  Early-season (late-May) corn condition ratings were also slightly higher in several other years, including 1998, 1999, 2007, 2010, the drought year of 2012, and 2014.

Northern California continued to experience incremental improvement from long-term drought, while southern California headed into a fifth year of drought.  On May 31, nearly 84 percent of California remained in drought, down from 97 percent as recently as March 8.  However, California’s coverage of exceptional drought (D4) has fallen from 46 to 21 percent since October 1, 2015.  Meanwhile in the Southwest, drought covered 59 percent of Arizona and 37 percent of New Mexico on May 31.  Farther east, short-term drought across the interior Southeast expanded by May 31 to cover 47 percent of Tennessee, 28 percent of Georgia, 27 percent of Alabama, 11 percent of North Carolina, and 10 percent of South Carolina.

Short-Term weather outlook:  Locally heavy showers and thunderstorms will continue in central, southern, and eastern Texas through Saturday, June 4, leading to the likelihood of additional flooding.  Three-day rainfall totals in Texas could reach 2 to 6 inches.  Meanwhile, scattered southern and eastern showers could total 1 to 3 inches, with some of the heaviest rain expected in the central Gulf Coast region on Friday, June 3; the Tennessee Valley on Saturday, June 4; and the Northeast on Sunday, June 5.  Parts of the upper Great Lakes region could receive late-week rainfall of 1 to 2 inches.  By early next week, heavy showers may affect Florida’s peninsula, while mostly dry weather should prevail in the western and central U.S.  Meanwhile, western heat will build eastward across the High Plains during the next 5 days, while generally cooler-than-normal conditions will cover the eastern half of the U.S. 

Please Note:  The next issuance of this drought update will be Thursday, July 7, 2016, unless conditions warrant an earlier release. 

 

The “U.S. Crops in Drought” products will be produced weekly, and are online:

http://www.usda.gov/oce/weather/Drought/AgInDrought.pdf

 

Archived “U.S. Crops in Drought” files are online:

http://drought.unl.edu/Planning/Impacts/USAginDroughtArchive.aspx

U.S. Crops in Drought, April: Winter wheat, rangeland and pastures in good shape

May 5, 2016

By Brad Rippey, USDA Meteorologist, Office of the Chief Economist, World Agricultural Outlook Board, Washington, D.C.

During the four-week period ending on May 3, 2016, contiguous U.S. drought coverage decreased to 14.56 percent—down 2.15 percentage points. Since reaching a 5½-year minimum of 12.41 percent on March 15, drought coverage rose to a spring maximum of 17.75 percent of the Lower 48 states on April 12 before falling back to the current coverage of 14.56 percent. Most of the increase and subsequent decrease in drought coverage has been related to the development of short-term drought in parts of the central U.S., followed by wetter weather starting in mid-April. There has also been some further erosion of drought from northern California to the northern Intermountain West.

A mid- to late-April pattern change brought desperately needed precipitation to the Great Plains and pushed warm, showery weather into the Midwestern and mid-Atlantic States. The Plains’ precipitation reversed a short-term drying trend, greatly benefiting winter wheat and putting an end to a spate of wildfires and episodes of blowing dust in Oklahoma and neighboring states. By May 3, just 3 percent of the U.S. winter wheat production area was affected by drought, down from 19 percent on April 12. Based on USDA conditions reported for May 1, the U.S. winter wheat crop was rated 61 percent good to excellent and 7 percent very poor to poor. A year ago, when 37 percent of the wheat production area was in drought, the crop was rated just 43 percent good to excellent and 20 percent very poor to poor. During the last two decades, only 1998, 1999, 2005, and 2010 featured higher early-May crop ratings for U.S. winter wheat.

Northern California continued to experience incremental improvement from long-term drought, while southern California entered a fifth year of drought. On May 3, nearly 90 percent of California remained in drought, down from 97 percent as recently as March 8. However, California’s coverage of exceptional drought (D4) has fallen from 46 to 21 percent since Oct. 1, 2015. Farther north, drought in Idaho and Washington has been eradicated since Oct. 1—down from 86 and 100 percent, respectively.

On May 3, drought was affecting just 10 percent of the U.S. cattle inventory, down from an April 12 peak of 19 percent. Similarly, only 8 percent of the nation’s hay area was in drought, down from an April 12 peak of 12 percent. With the year’s first USDA condition rating on May 1, U.S. rangeland and pastures started 2016 in the fifth-best condition during the 22-year period of record—rated as 58 percent good to excellent and just 10 percent very poor to poor. Conditions were better to start the year in 1995, 1998, 1999, and 2010. All but 1999 featured El Niño in progress as the year began.

On May 3, the nation’s corn and soybean production areas remained mostly free of drought – less than 1 percent drought coverage for both commodities. Despite widespread showers in late April, 45 percent of the intended U.S. corn acreage had been planted by May 1, well ahead of the 5-year average of 30 percent. Soybean planting was also ahead of schedule – 8 percent complete by May 1, compared to the 5-year average of 6 percent.

Weather outlook:  During the next few days, an atmospheric blocking pattern over North America will favor cool, showery conditions in parts of the eastern and western U.S., while warm, dry weather will prevail across the nation’s mid-section. In the middle and northern Atlantic States, additional rainfall should total 1 to 2 inches. Meanwhile, Western totals could reach 1 to 3 inches in the Sierra Nevada and 2 to 4 inches or more across the northern Intermountain West. However, most (or all) of the precipitation will bypass the lower Southeast and the southern Rockies. During the weekend and early next week, dry weather will gradually return to the Northeast, while rain (locally 1 to 2 inches or more) will overspread portions of the Plains, mid-South, and western Corn Belt.

PLEASE NOTE: The next issuance of this emailed drought update will be Thursday, June 2, 2016, unless conditions warrant an earlier release. The “U.S. Crops in Drought” products will be produced on a weekly basis, and can be viewed online:
http://www.usda.gov/oce/weather/Drought/AgInDrought.pdf

Archived “U.S. Crops in Drought” files can be downloaded:
http://drought.unl.edu/Planning/Impacts/USAginDroughtArchive.aspx

USDA: Cattle, winter wheat affected by March drought expansion in S. Plains

Apr 8, 2016

By Brad Rippey, USDA Meteorologist, Office of the Chief Economist, World Agricultural Outlook Board, Washington, D.C.

During the five-week period ending on April 5, 2016, contiguous U.S. drought coverage increased to 16.71 percent—up 2.41 percentage points.  Since reaching a five-and-a-half-year minimum of 12.41 percent on March 15, drought coverage has increased 4.30 percentage points.  Most of the increase has been driven by the development of short-term drought across the central and southern Plains and the Southwest, while further erosion of drought has occurred in northern California and the Northwest.

March was a month of precipitation extremes, ranging from very dry conditions in the nation’s southwestern quadrant to severe flooding from easternmost Texas into the lower Mississippi Valley.  According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, state precipitation rankings ranged from the driest March on record in New Mexico to the second-wettest March in Louisiana and Wisconsin.  New Mexico’s monthly precipitation averaged 0.06 inch (8 percent of normal), tying a March 1956 standard.  Five other states (Arizona, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania) experienced a top-ten ranking for March dryness.  In contrast, Louisiana’s monthly precipitation averaged 10.40 inches, second only to 10.79 inches in March 1926.  Wisconsin’s average of 3.83 inches trailed only 4.02 inches in March 1977.  March totals were also among the ten highest values on record in Arkansas, Mississippi, Washington, and Michigan.

On April 5, more than one-third (36 percent) of the western U.S. remained in drought, down from 57 percent in early October 2015.  Most (91 percent) of California was still in drought on April 5, down 6 percentage points from the beginning of the water year on October 1, 2015.  However, California’s coverage of exceptional drought (D4) has fallen from 46 to 32 percent since October 1.  Farther north, drought in Washington and Idaho has been eradicated since the beginning of the water year—down from coverage of 100 and 86 percent, respectively.

On April 5, drought was affecting 17 percent of the U.S. cattle inventory, up from 8 percent on March 8 but down from an autumn 2015 peak of 27 percent.

On April 5, the portion of the U.S. winter wheat production area in drought stood at 20 percent, up sharply from a late-winter minimum of 3 percent on March 8.  Nationally, more than half (59 percent) of the winter wheat was rated in good to excellent condition on April 3, while just 7 percent of the crop was rated very poor to poor.  However, more than one-tenth of the winter wheat was rated very poor to poor in Colorado (16 percent) and Texas (11 percent).  Across the southwestern Plains, recent weather conditions have included drought, freezes, wildfires, and blowing dust—all of which have contributed to an increase in stress on the winter wheat crop.

On April 5, the Midwest remained free of drought, continuing a 14-week trend that began on Jan. 5, 2016.  However, abnormal dryness has expanded in recent weeks across parts of Missouri, western Minnesota, and west-central Illinois.  Due to developing drought across portions of the Plains, 4 percent of the U.S. corn production area was in drought on April 5.  At the same time, 2 percent of the U.S. soybean area was in drought.

Weather outlook:   For today and early Friday, rainfall could reach 1 to 4 inches in the Northeast, while northern New England may experience some flooding.  Another blast of cold air and snow showers will follow, leading to another round of freezes during the weekend in the Midwest and in the eastern U.S. as far south as the Mid-Atlantic States.  In contrast, record-setting warmth will spread from the Northwest to the northern High Plains, persisting into the weekend.  Meanwhile, the threat of wildfires will persist across parts of the central and southern Plains, although improving conditions (and possibly some rain) will arrive early next week.  Elsewhere, increasingly showery weather can be expected in the nation’s southwestern quadrant, with isolated 1- to 3-inch totals possible during the next five days in southern California. 

PLEASE NOTE:  The next issuance of this emailed drought update will be Thursday, May 5, 2016, unless conditions warrant an earlier release.  The “U.S. Crops in Drought” products will be produced on a weekly basis, and is online:
http://www.usda.gov/oce/weather/Drought/AgInDrought.pdf

Archived “U.S. Crops in Drought” files are online:
http://drought.unl.edu/Planning/Impacts/USAginDroughtArchive.aspx

US drought footprint continues to shrink

Mar 2, 2016

By Brad Rippey, USDA Meteorologist, Office of the Chief Economist, World Agricultural Outlook Board, Washington, D.C. 

During the 4-week period ending on March 1, 2016, contiguous U.S. drought coverage fell to 14.30 percent—a decrease of 1.18 percentage points.  This also represents the smallest areal coverage of U.S. drought in nearly 5½ years, since October 12, 2010.  The U.S. drought minimum of 2010—7.74 percent coverage on July 6—occurred in the wake of the most recently completed El Niño, which lasted from the summer of 2009 to the spring of 2010.

Since mid-October 2015, stormy weather in many parts of the country—in part driven by a strong El Niño—has significantly reduced the U.S. drought footprint from 34.78 to 14.30 percent—a drop of 20.48 percentage points.

In February, however, disappointingly dry weather covered much of the West.  For example, the average water content of the high-elevation Sierra Nevada snowpack was nearly steady during February at 20 to 22 inches, with few storms hitting key watershed areas.  Since February is typically an important month for Sierra Nevada snowpack accumulation, the percent of average snowpack dropped from about 115 percent of average on February 1 to just 85 percent by month’s end.

On March 1, more than one-third (36 percent) of the western U.S. remained in drought, down from 57 percent in early October 2015.  Most (95 percent) of California was still in drought on February 2, down 2 percentage points from the beginning of the water year on October 1, 2015.  However, California’s coverage of exceptional drought (D4) has fallen from 46 to 38 percent since October 1.  Farther north, extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4) in Oregon and Washington has been eradicated since the beginning of the water year—down from 67 and 68 percent, respectively.

On March 1, drought was affecting just 10 percent of the U.S. cattle inventory, down from an autumn 2015 peak of 27 percent.

On March 1, the portion of the U.S. winter wheat production area in drought stood at 6 percent, down from an autumn 2015 peak of 29 percent on October 20.  At the end of February, USDA/NASS rated more than two-thirds of the winter wheat in good to excellent condition in several major production states, including Ohio (72 percent), South Dakota (69 percent), Oklahoma (68 percent), and Indiana (67 percent).  Across the central and southern Plains, however, February warmth caused winter wheat to prematurely break dormancy, leaving the crop susceptible to spring freezes.  The northern Plains’ wheat has also lost some winter hardiness and is exposed to potential spring weather extremes.  In addition, pockets of abnormal dryness (D0) have developed across the Plains, with D0 expanding to cover 25 percent of Texas and 21 percent of Oklahoma by March 1—up from 2 and 0 percent, respectively, on February 2.  In Texas, only 40 percent of the winter wheat was rated in good to excellent condition at the end of February, down from 49 percent a month ago.

On March 1, the Midwest remained free of drought, continuing a 9-week trend that began on January 5, 2016.  The last time the Midwest was free of drought (D1 to D4) for a longer period was 2005, when there was no drought coverage for 12 consecutive weeks from February 15 to May 3.  In addition, U.S. Drought Monitor coverage of Midwestern abnormal dryness (D0) had never dropped below 1 percent until February 9, 2016, and currently stands at a record-low 0.90 percent.

Weather outlook:   Big changes are coming to northern and central California for the weekend and early next week.  From March 3 to March 7, five-day precipitation totals could reach 4 to 10 inches or more in parts of northern and central California and 2 to 4 inches in the Pacific Northwest.  Generally light precipitation will develop across much of the remainder of the western U.S.  By early next week, a complex weather system will begin to evolve across the nation’s mid-section, eventually leading to widespread precipitation, gusty winds, and possibly severe thunderstorms spreading eastward from the Plains.

Please Note:  The next issuance of this drought update will be Thursday, April 7, 2016, unless conditions warrant an earlier release.  The “U.S. Crops in Drought” products will be produced on a weekly basis, and can be viewed at:

http://www.usda.gov/oce/weather/Drought/AgInDrought.pdf

Archived “U.S. Crops in Drought” files can be downloaded at:

http://drought.unl.edu/Planning/Impacts/USAginDroughtArchive.aspx

US drought coverage down to least amount in 5+ years

Feb 4, 2016

By Brad Rippey, USDA Meteorologist, Office of the Chief Economist, World Agricultural Outlook Board, Washington, D.C. 

During the four-week period ending Feb. 2, 2016, contiguous U.S. drought coverage fell to 15.48 percent—a decrease of 2.91 percentage points. This also represents the smallest areal coverage of U.S. drought in more than five years, since Oct. 26, 2010. Perhaps not coincidentally, the U.S. drought minimum of 2010 occurred in the wake of the most recently completed El Niño, which lasted from the summer of 2009 to the spring of 2010.

Since mid-October 2015, stormy weather in many parts of the country—in part driven by a strong El Niño—has significantly reduced U.S. drought coverage from 34.78 to 15.48 percent—a drop of 19.30 percentage points.

Where drought remains, mostly in the Far West, there has been incremental improvement. Although long-term concerns still include below-average reservoir storage, groundwater shortages, and tree mortality, winter precipitation has boosted spring and summer runoff prospects, improved rangeland and pasture conditions, cut irrigation demands, and reduced the need for supplemental feeding of livestock. California’s intrastate reservoirs held just 54 percent of their normal water volume on Dec. 31, and that number may not appreciably improve until high-elevation snow begins to melt in the spring.

On Feb. 2, more than one-third (38 percent) of the western U.S. remained in drought, down from 57 percent in early October 2015. Most (95 percent) of California was still in drought on Feb. 2, down 2 percentage points from the beginning of the water year on Oct. 1, 2015. However, California’s coverage of exceptional drought (D4) has fallen from 46 to 39 percent since Oct. 1. Farther north, coverage of extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4) since Oct. 1 has decreased from 67 to 4 percent in Oregon and from 68 to 0 percent in Washington.

On Feb. 2, drought was affecting just 11 percent of the U.S. cattle inventory, down from an autumn 2015 peak of 27 percent.

On Feb. 2, the portion of the U.S. winter wheat production area in drought stood at 7 percent, down from an autumn peak of 29 percent on Oct. 20. At the end of January, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service rated more than two-thirds of the winter wheat in good to excellent condition in several major production states, including Oklahoma (74 percent good to excellent); Ohio (74 percent); Michigan (73 percent); Montana (72 percent); Indiana (71 percent); and South Dakota (67 percent).

Weather outlook:  For today and tonight, precipitation will linger in the southern Atlantic region, where an additional 1 to 2 inches could fall in some locations. Rain may mix with or change to snow overnight in some Atlantic coastal communities. Some additional precipitation may fall early next week along the Atlantic Seaboard. Meanwhile, unsettled weather will persist across the Northwest into the weekend, following by a transition to mild, dry conditions. Many other areas of the U.S., from California to the middle and lower Mississippi Valley, will experience dry weather during the next five days. In California and the Desert Southwest, a marked warming trend will accompany the dry weather. Elsewhere, precipitation will be mostly light and confined to the nation’s northern tier, except for some heavy snow early next week in the vicinity of the Great Lakes.

Please Note: The next issuance of this emailed drought update will be Thursday, March 3, 2016, unless conditions warrant an earlier release. The “U.S. Crops in Drought” products will be produced on a weekly basis, and is online:
http://www.usda.gov/oce/weather/Drought/AgInDrought.pdf

Archived “U.S. Crops in Drought” files are online:
http://drought.unl.edu/Planning/Impacts/USAginDroughtArchive.aspx

USDA Crops In Drought Update: Heavy rains reduce drought

Jan 7, 2016

By Brad Rippey, USDA Meteorologist, Office of the Chief Economist, World Agricultural Outlook Board, Washington, D.C.

During the five-week period ending Jan. 5, 2016, contiguous U.S. drought coverage fell to 18.39 percent—a decrease of 2.19 percentage points. This also represents the smallest areal coverage of U.S. drought in more than five years, since Dec. 7, 2010. Perhaps not coincidentally, the U.S. drought minimum of 2010 occurred near the end of the most recently completed El Niño, which lasted from the summer of 2009 to the spring of 2010.

Since mid-October 2015, a procession of storms, in part driven by a near-record-strength El Niño, has significantly reduced U.S. drought coverage from 34.78 to 18.39 percent—a drop of 16.39 percentage points.

For many areas of the country, drought has become an afterthought in the face of heavy precipitation, record flooding, winter tornado outbreaks, and more. December featured heavy, drought-easing or -eradicating precipitation in the Northwest, torrential precipitation from northeastern Texas into the middle Mississippi Valley, and additional heavy rain in parts of the Southeast. As the New Year began, a marked southward shift in the jet stream allowed colder air to invade the central and eastern U.S., but more importantly, brought the season’s most significant precipitation to central and southern California. Such a southward shift in the primary storm track is a hallmark of El Niño, especially in the January-March time frame, and could lead to significant, mid- to late-winter precipitation from southern California to the southern half of the Plains, as well as areas along and near the Gulf Coast and the southern Atlantic Coast.

According to the California Department of Water Resources, the average water content of the high-elevation Sierra Nevada snowpack climbed to 12 inches by Jan. 6, slightly above average for this time of year. By April 1, the traditional peak snowpack date, the Sierra Nevada snow should contain nearly 30 inches of liquid. With more than half of California’s winter wet season still ahead and a strong El Niño in place, forecasters are optimistic that California’s drought situation will begin to improve. However, experts caution that effects of California’s four-year drought could persist, in part due to long-term factors such as tree mortality—which could lead to future wildfires—and losses of groundwater—which is not always easily replaced. In addition, California’s intrastate reservoirs held just 52 percent of their normal water volume on Nov. 30, and that number may not appreciably improve until high-elevation snow begins to melt in the spring.

On Jan. 5, nearly half (45 percent) of the western U.S. remained in drought, down from 49 percent in early December. Nearly all (97 percent) of California was in drought on Jan. 5, unchanged from five weeks ago. Farther north, however, drought coverage during the same five-week period decreased from 96 to 77 percent in Oregon and from 64 to 25 percent in Washington

On Jan. 5, drought was affecting just 12 percent of the U.S. cattle inventory, down from an autumn 2015 peak of 27 percent.

On Jan. 5, the portion of the U.S. winter wheat production area in drought stood at 12 percent, down from an autumn peak of 29 percent on Oct. 20.

Weather outlook:  For the remainder of the week, a mild, active weather pattern will return to the eastern half of the U.S. East of the Rockies, accumulating snow should be confined to an area stretching from the central High Plains into the Great Lakes region, although weekend snow could become heavy in the latter region. Meanwhile, storm-total rainfall should reach an inch or more in parts of the South, East, and lower Midwest. Precipitation will be slow to exit the Northeast, lingering through the weekend. Elsewhere, heavy snow will shift from the Southwest to the central Rockies before ending, although snow showers will return to the Far West—including the Sierra Nevada—during the weekend.

PLEASE NOTE: The next issuance of this emailed drought update will be Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, unless conditions warrant an earlier release.

The “U.S. Crops in Drought” products will be produced weekly and are online:
http://www.usda.gov/oce/weather/Drought/AgInDrought.pdf

Archived “U.S. Crops in Drought” files can be downloaded:
http://drought.unl.edu/Planning/Impacts/USAginDroughtArchive.aspx

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