Drought easing on parts of the Great Plains

Coverage reached its year-to-date peak of 40.06% on May 6, but subsequent rainfall across portions of the nation’s mid-section has slightly reduced drought’s imprint. Nevertheless, drought still covers a substantial portion of the central and southern Plains and the western U.S..

On June 3, the highest level of drought— exceptional drought—was noted in portions of California (25%), Oklahoma (21%), Texas (9%), Nevada (8%), Kansas (2%), and Colorado (2%). California also led the nation with 77% coverage of extreme to exceptional drought.

In addition, California topped the U.S. with 70% of its rangeland and pastures rated in very poor to poor condition on June 1, according to USDA. Following California were New Mexico, Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Nevada.

U.S. Drought Portal

Chilly, wet weather expanding across the Midwest

Across the Corn Belt, Freeze Warnings were in effect early Wednesday in much of the Dakotas, Nebraska, western Minnesota, and northwestern Iowa. However, fieldwork has been substantially delayed in the upper Midwest due to cool, wet conditions, leaving only a few fields of corn, soybeans, and spring wheat that have emerged. Elsewhere, heavy showers are developing in the lower Ohio Valley and spreading into the eastern Corn Belt.

On the Plains, unusually cool conditions persist. Freeze Warnings were in effect early Wednesday for a broad area from the Dakotas southward across the central and southern High Plains. The cold weather continues to pose a threat to heading winter wheat, already harmed by drought, on the southern High Plains. Elsewhere, overnight showers are ending across the southeastern Plains.

In the South, widespread showers and thunderstorms are soaking the Mississippi Delta, the Mid-South, and portions of the Gulf Coast region. However, planting and other fieldwork activities continue under warm, mostly dry conditions in the southern Atlantic States.

In the West, dry weather prevails, although record-setting warmth in the Pacific Coast States contrasts with chilly conditions in the Four Corners States. The threat of wildfires remains high in southern California.

Morning Low Temperature Plot

Weather Alerts

Forecast High Temperatures (National)

NOAA: moderate flood potential in Midwest, elevated risk of ice jams

According to NOAA’s Spring Outlook recently, rivers in half of the continental United States are at minor or moderate risk of exceeding flood levels this spring with the highest threat in the southern Great Lakes region due to above-average snowpack and a deep layer of frozen ground.

Additionally, drought is expected to continue in California and the Southwest. 

NOAA’s Spring Outlook

Drought expansion in the West expands slightly eastward

Much needed precipitation brought limited drought relief to parts of the Northwest, the Great Basin, and the northern Intermountain West, but drought continued to expand and intensify across parts of California, the desert Southwest and the southern Rockies. Outside of spotty precipitation over southern and western Texas, drought also expanded across much of the central and southern Plains, and short term drought developed along the western GulfCoast. Widespread precipitation brought drought relief to the eastern U.S. Drought persistence and expansion are anticipated for California, the Southwest, and the southern Plains due to dry initial conditions heading into the climatologically drier Spring season. CPC 1-Month and 3-Month outlooks tilt the odds towards below-median precipitation over parts of the Southwest and California as well. In contrast, short range forecasts for heavy precipitation increase prospects for additional drought relief across the Pacific Northwest and the northern Rockies, although anticipated warmer than normal temperatures may limit effective snow pack building for late spring water resources. Drought improvement or removal is forecast for the central Plains and the middle and upper MississippiValley, where climatological precipitation increases substantially during April and May. While locally heavy precipitation is forecast in the short term for parts of the central and western Gulf Coast, which would ease short term drought conditions, the CPC seasonal outlook indicates enhanced chances of below-median rainfall. With 90-day precipitation totals generally below 75 percent of normal, it is possible for short term drought reductions to be offset by redevelopment later in the Spring.

Seasonal Drought Outlook Map

NOAA’s 30 & 90 Day Weather Outlooks

Frigid weather persists throughout much of the Nation

Across the Corn Belt, frigid conditions persist, with Tuesday morning’s temperatures falling below 0° in nearly all locations. A deep snow cover and snow drifts continue to complicate travel in the central and eastern Corn Belt, where current snow depths include 13 inches in Rockford, Illinois, and Indianapolis, Indiana.

On the Plains, bitterly cold weather has begun to ease, except in the eastern Dakotas. At the height of the cold wave, snow helped to insulate winter wheat in many areas, although there was a notable gap in coverage across much of Nebraska, south-central and southwestern South Dakota, and north-central Kansas. On January 6, low temperatures in those areas with little or no snow cover generally ranged from -5 to -15°.

In the South, winter agricultural areas across Deep South Texas and Florida’s peninsula escaped without a major freeze Tuesday morning, although Wind Chill Advisories have been posted. Meanwhile, Hard Freeze Warnings were in effect early Tuesday along the Gulf Coast from eastern Texas to Florida’s panhandle. In southern Louisiana, where temperatures plunged to near 20°, most of last year’s sugarcane has already been harvested.

In the West, mild, mostly dry weather prevails, despite an increase in cloudiness. A few rain and snow showers are overspreading the Pacific Northwest. In Arizona, the cotton harvest was 99% complete by January 5, ahead of the 5-year average of 95%. Meanwhile, the average water content of the high-elevation Sierra Nevada snow pack stands at 2 inches, less than 20% of the early-January normal.

 Morning Low Temperature Plot

 Weather Alerts


Life-threatening cold grips the Heartland

Across the Corn Belt, a life-threatening cold outbreak is underway. Monday morning’s low temperatures generally ranged from -30° in the far upper Midwest to near 0° in the Ohio Valley. Gusty winds accompany the bitter cold, resulting in dangerously low wind chill temperatures. In the eastern Corn Belt, a deep snow cover is insulating winter wheat, but blowing and drifting snow is stressing livestock and hampering travel.

On the Plains, very cold weather prevails, with sub-zero temperatures noted from Kansas northward. The frigid, breezy conditions are stressing livestock and resulting in dangerously low wind chill temperatures. Snow is providing some protection for winter wheat on the northern and central Plains, although coverage is patchy. Current snow depths include 4 inches in Great Falls, Montana, and 2 inches in Wichita, Kansas.

In the South, an Arctic cold front is crossing the Atlantic Coast States, accompanied by a few rain showers. In the front’s wake, hard freeze warnings are in effect this morning from eastern Texas into the central Gulf Coast region. However, temperatures remain above freezing in Deep South Texas and across Florida’s peninsula.

In the West, mild weather in California contrasts with near- to below-normal temperatures farther inland. Dry weather prevails throughout the West, increasing concerns about summer water supplies in areas—such as California and the Great Basin—moving deeper into a third consecutive year of drought.

Morning Low Temperature Plot

Weather Alerts

Drought expansion in the West, Southwest

During the past month, drought conditions improved across parts of the Intermountain West, Rockies, southern Plains, lower Mississippi Valley, upper Midwest, mid-Atlantic, and Northeast. In most of these areas, the trend toward improvement is not expected to continue through the first 3 months of 2014, and in fact some drought development (or re-development) is anticipated in portions of the central and southern Rockies and the Southwest. Drought is expected to be a continuing or worsening concern along the West Coast and in the Southeast.

A large storm system in the 7 days before Christmas should bring 1 to several inches of precipitation from the southern High Plains northeastward through parts of the Midwest and the Northeast, setting the stage for drought improvement or removal in the scattered areas of drought across eastern Texas, eastern Missouri, central Illinois, and the Northeast. In addition to effects from this system, surface moisture – whether in soils and water sources or locked up in snowpack – usually increases in these regions during January – March.

Improvement is also expected in central Idaho and adjacent areas, where the January outlook favors above-normal precipitation after relatively dry weather through the end of December. Elsewhere, the trend toward decreasing drought should continue in Alaska, and with odds significantly favoring above-normal rainfall in Hawaii for January and January – March, continued slow improvement is anticipated there.

In contrast, below-normal precipitation seems more likely for January – March in the Southeast and much of the southwestern quarter of the country. Drought is expected to persist where it exists in these regions, and expand to cover areas currently exhibiting some degree of dryness (generally areas shown as abnormally dry, or D0, in the Drought Monitor). This includes Florida and a swath from the Carolinas to the central Gulf Coast in the Southeast, and most areas not already experiencing drought from Colorado and eastern Utah southward through the desert Southwest and southern Rockies, along with westernmost Texas.

California and adjacent areas in the Far West will be closely monitored this period. Patches of above-normal precipitation have been analyzed in southeastern California, but most of the state received less than half of normal precipitation during the last half of 2013, as did parts of adjacent Oregon and Nevada. From southern sections of California’s central valley to the coastal strip between San Francisco and Los Angeles, many locations recorded less than 25% of normal precipitation since late June. Both the January and January – March precipitation outlooks indicate enhanced chances for below-normal precipitation across much of the state and neighboring areas, thus drought is expected to persist or intensify.

Seasonal Drought Outlook Map

NOAA’s 30 & 90 Day Weather Outlooks

Bitter cold dominates the upper Midwest

Across the Corn Belt, cold weather is maintaining stress on livestock, particularly across the upper Midwest. Tuesday morning’s temperatures again plunged below -20° in parts of eastern North Dakota and northern Minnesota.

On the Plains, bitterly cold weather across the Dakotas contrasts with mild conditions farther south. In portions of the Dakotas, snowy, breezy conditions and sub-zero temperatures are maintaining stress on livestock.  Despite drought concerns on the central and southern High Plains, winter wheat remains mostly in good shape. On December 29, USDA rated well over half of the wheat in good to excellent condition in South Dakota (70%), Nebraska (65%), Oklahoma (63%), Montana (60%), and Kansas (58%).

In the South, a little bit of light rain is falling across the Deep South, mainly in southern Texas. In parts of the Southeast, soils remain too wet for fieldwork in the wake of recent downpours.

In the West, mild, dry weather prevails, except for a few rain and snow showers across the region’s northern tier. With respect to the early-December cold snap in California’s San Joaquin Valley, USDA reports that “Navel oranges and mandarins sustained some freeze damage,” and that “damaged fruit was sent to be juiced.”

Morning Low Temperature Plot

Snow for Parts of the Northeast; Bitter Cold in the Central U.S.

A storm system off the Northeast Coast will bring locally heavy snow to parts of New England through early Monday. Meanwhile, in the central U.S., temperatures will continue to be below normal as an arctic air mass remains in place. Gusty winds in this region will contribute to extremely cold wind chills.

More on this…

Contrasting Temperatures Across Much of the U.S.

On Friday, temperatures will be 15 to 20 degrees BELOW average for the Northern and Central Plains and 15 to 20 degrees ABOVE average for parts of the Lower and Middle Mississippi Valley into parts of the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys. But hang on; big changes are on the way this weekend!

The Full Story