Drought Monitor: Drought Intensifies Across the Plains & Midwest

November 29, 2012 02:15 AM

According to the National Drought Monitor, mostly dry weather prevailed across drought areas of the contiguous U.S., with above-normal temperatures across the western half of the nation contrasting with near- to below-normal temperatures east of the Mississippi. Locally heavy rain and mountain snow persisted, however, across the central and northern Pacific Coast states as well as the northern Rockies, the Monitor says.

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Meanwhile, a disturbance generated beneficial showers late in the period from the western and central Gulf Coast into the lower Ohio River Valley, although amounts were generally too light to afford any notable drought reduction. Rain from this system had not yet reached the Southeast as of the Tuesday morning cutoff for inclusion in this analysis; any potential benefits from the Southeastern rainfall will be addressed in next week’s Drought Monitor, the Drought Monitor elaborates.

With the exception of far-southern Texas, drought intensified across much of the Southern Plains as rainfall deficits mounted and soil moisture, streamflows, and other water reserves rapidly declined. The rain (0.5 to 2 inches), which fell primarily in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, afforded some modest reductions in Extreme Drought (D3) near and to the east of Laredo, the Monitor says, continuing, "Otherwise, widespread drought intensification was noted from southeastern Texas northward into Oklahoma, with substantial increases in the coverage of Extreme (D3) to Exceptional (D4) Drought in northern Texas and southern and eastern Oklahoma."

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The drought’s impacts are far reaching, the Drought Monitor notes. "As of Nov. 25, the Texas winter wheat crop was rated 40% poor to very poor, a 15-point jump from last week. Meanwhile, the state’s pastures have deteriorated from 43% poor to very poor in late October to 53% poor to very poor as of Nov. 25. In Oklahoma, winter wheat and pastures stood at 44% and 80% poor to very poor, respectively," the monitor elaborates.

The situation was much the same on the Central and Northern Plains, as unseasonable mild, dry conditions maintained or increased drought there. A swath of light to moderate snow did provide localized drought relief in southwest South Dakota. The Monitor states that the "most notable changes were the expansion of Exceptional Drought (D4) in southern Kansas as well as an increase in Severe to Exceptional Drought (D2-D4) in central and northeastern South Dakota. Over the past 90 days, rainfall has totaled less than 25% of normal from south-central Nebraska northward into central South Dakota."

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Illustrating the drought’s impacts, winter wheat was rated 64% and 25% poor to very poor in South Dakota and Kansas, respectively, as of Nov. 25, while Kansas’ pastures were rated 82% poor to very poor, the Monitor elaborates. Extreme to Exceptional Drought (D3-D4) also continued to afflict eastern Colorado, where pastures were rated 85% poor to very poor as of Nov. 25, according to the Monitor.

The Drought Monitor says modest increases in D0 (Abnormal Dryness) and Moderate Drought (D1) were made to reflect increasingly dry conditions at 30 and 60 days as well as declining streamflows in southern portions of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Farther north, a tight gradient exists between favorable rainfall over the past 90 days in central portions of Illinois and Indiana with sharply drier conditions (locally less than 50% of normal over the past 90 days) from northern Illinois into northern Indiana and southern Michigan, the Monitor reports. Many streamflows in these locales are currently in the 5th percentile or lower. Declining streamflows and increasing short-term precipitation deficits also resulted in the expansion of Abnormal Dryness (D0) across central and eastern Michigan as well as Moderate Drought (D1) in western sections of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Monitor continues.

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In the upper Midwest, the Drought Monitor says Moderate to Severe Drought (D1 and D2) were expanded across northern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin, where short-term precipitation deficits were causing rapid declines in soil moisture and streamflows. "The lingering benefits of a single heavy rain event in northeastern Minnesota during mid-June have been steadily undone by extremely dry conditions during the rest of the summer and autumn," the Monitor explains.

During the next five days (Nov. 15-19), the Monitor states Pacific moisture will continue to stream onshore, resulting in moderate to heavy rain and high-elevation snow (locally more than 12 inches, liquid equivalent) from central California into the Northwest and northern Rockies. Farther east, a weak cold front may bring some light showers to the Mississippi Valley late in the period, while light showers are possible in southern Texas, the Monitor notes. "Otherwise, dry, warm conditions are expected across the remainder of the contiguous U.S., affording most drought areas little — if any — relief over the next 5 to 7 days," the Monitor says.

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