According to the National Drought Monitor, drought covers 56.25% of the contiguous U.S., which is up from 53.37% last week. Slight deterioration was noted across the Midwest, with larger increases in the drought area noted across the South and West.
The monitor notes during the past 7-days, an amplified ridge dominated weather conditions across the western third of the contiguous U.S., while a broad trough prevailed over the central and eastern thirds of the country. Early in the period, two distinct low pressure centers and two cold fronts consolidated into one potent winter storm near the mid-Atlantic coast. "This storm system brought significant snowfall to the northern mid-Atlantic region and the Northeast, with amounts generally ranging from 6-14 inches, though some areas had less accumulation, while others reported more," it notes. "The remainder of the period was dominated by a series of fast-moving, clipper-type systems, which brought bitter cold arctic air to most of the central and eastern lower 48 states... "Precipitation was largely confined to the Great Lakes, the Northeast and the Texas coast, though amounts were mostly in the 0.5-1.5 inch range (liquid equivalent). The West in general remained relatively mild and dry during the past seven-days."
In Texas, the monitor says much of the eastern Panhandle has received 25% or less of normal precipitation in the past 60-days, with some locales in the lowest 5%. "Thus far this month in Oklahoma, Lawton and Frederick have not received any precipitation, and Clinton has received only a trace of precipitation. Subzero dew points have occurred throughout much of January. As a result, one-category degradations were made within these areas," states the monitor.
Meanwhile, drought and relatively mild temperatures continue to prevail across California, which contributed to an increase in the drought's intensity. "In the northwestern part of California, a one-category degradation from severe to extreme drought (D2 to D3) was made across Humboldt and Trinity Counties. The Central Sierra Snow Lab near the Donner Summit reports 8 inches of snow on the ground, the lowest for this time in January since at least 1946. In the general vicinity of Monterey to Bakersfield, conditions warranted a one-category downgrade, from extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4). A few of the impacts within the D4 area include fallowing of land, wells running dry, municipalities considering drilling deeper wells, and little to no rangeland grasses for cattle to graze on, prompting significant livestock sell off," it states.
Looking ahead, the drought monitor says through February 3, some locally heavy precipitation amounts (2.5-3.5 inches, liquid equivalent) are expected for the higher elevations of the Cascades, the Sierras, the Bitterroots, the Wasatch, and the Colorado Front Range, which should help with some drought relief. "Moderate precipitation (0.5-1.5 inches) is predicted across the abnormally dry regions of the central Gulf Coast and lower Mississippi Valley, as well as parts of south-central Florida. Elsewhere, precipitation amounts of less than a half-inch are generally forecast," it states. "For the ensuing 5-day period, February 4-8, 2014, there are elevated odds of above-median precipitation over much of the nation east of the Continental Divide, except for portions of the upper Mississippi Valley and northern Plains, where odds favor below-median precipitation. Below-median precipitation is also favored for California, southern Arizona, and most of Alaska."