According to the National Drought Monitor, drought covers 51.76% of the contiguous U.S., which is down from 53.65% the week prior, down from 60.43% three months ago and down from 72.78% a year ago. The week began with a sprawling area of high pressure across much of the contiguous 48 states before two low-pressure systems moved across the country. The first system intensified over the Great Lakes and pushed a cold front to the southeast. The next storm system moved across the western portions of the contiguous 48 states and tracked from the central Rockies to the Great Lakes. As a result, most of the wet weather was confined to east of the Rockies, with the heaviest rains across the southeast. Some light precipitation was recorded across portions of the Pacific Northwest.
For the Midwest and Central and Northern Plains USDA says no changes were made to the depiction of drought across this region as most of the ground is frozen so little evaporation or recharge can take place.
For the Southern Plains and into the South the monitor states light to moderate rains of 0.5 to 1.6 inches fell across southern Texas, prompting a 1-category improvement across most of the region. A reassessment of conditions led to the removal of the extreme drought (D3) near Corpus Christi, as that was introduced due to an analysis error last week. A slight adjustment to the placement of the abnormally dry (D0) area was made across southern Louisiana as well, reflecting better alignment with various statistical and analytical models..
In the West, the drought monitor explains that a reassessment of conditions prompted the removal of extreme drought from near Kiowa County in Colorado. Recent conditions have been dry, but a wet period from Mid-July to Mid-October has mitigated the impacts, so the area is now designated at D2 (severe drought), more consistent with impacts reported by local extension agents. Dry conditions have persisted across California and Oregon, so D1 (moderate drought) was expanded across much of western Oregon and D2 (severe drought) was expanded across much of northern California. According to the California Department of Water Resources, Lake Shasta is currently at just 58% of average for this time of year (37% of capacity).
In its outlook for Jan. 1 - 5, Drought Monitor says moderate precipitation of up to 1.8 inches locally is forecast across the Gulf coast with lighter amounts through the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys. Snowfall is also likely across the Great Lakes and Northeast. Elsewhere, light precipitation at most is forecast for the remainder of the contiguous 48 states.
For the following five days of Jan 6 to 10, the odds favor above-median precipitation from the northern Rockies to the central and southern Great Plains, as well as the Great Lakes and Northeast. Dry conditions are favored across the southwest.