According to the National Drought Monitor, 54.11% of the contiguous U.S. is covered by some form of drought, which is up from 53.21% last week. Drought expanded across the South, with nearly 70% of the region now covered by drought, up from 61% last week. Meanwhile, across the High Plains and Midwest regions, slight drought improvement was noted.
The monitor notes emerging dryness became an issue from the eastern Plains (Kansas to Texas) eastward into the middle and lower Mississippi Valley, while heavy rain fell in the central Gulf Coast region. "There were broad expansions of various categories of dryness and drought in southeastern Kansas and parts of Oklahoma and Texas... Roughly the southern half of the Great Plains region is facing a potential fourth consecutive summer of drought — a stretch that began with the historic drought of 2011. Texas cotton abandonment, which until recently only exceeded 40 percent only once (in 1998), has topped 40 percent in three consecutive years (2011, 2012, and 2013)," notes the monitor.
For the Midwest, the monitor notes another system brought a mix of wintery precip to the region, with "nearly every flake of snow that has fallen across the far upper Midwest this winter" still on the ground. "Although there are some uncertainties regarding how much of the moisture will run off and how much will soak in, the latest storm resulted in further reductions in the coverage of dryness (D0) and lingering drought (D1 and D2)," notes the monitor.
In the outlook through March 3, the monitor says precip will engulf much of the West, with totals of 1 to 3 inches expected. "Late in the period, a sprawling storm will affect the central and eastern U.S. Snow, sleet, and freezing rain can be expected across portions of the Plains, Midwest, Mid-South and Mid-Atlantic States. Another strong surge of frigid air will trail the storm into the Plains and Midwest," it says.