Drought Monitor: Precip in Southern Plains Made a Dent in Drought Areas

December 8, 2011 02:23 AM

For the second week in a row, National Drought Monitor reports light to moderate precip (1 to 2 inches) fell on southern and eastern sections of the Midwest, except this week’s 1 to 2 inch amounts were shifted a bit farther to the north and west. This allowed for improvement of short-term D0 and D1 areas in northern Missouri, southwestern, southeastern, and extreme northeastern Iowa, and southeastern Nebraska. The recent wet spell has eliminated precipitation shortages out to 90-days (where D0 was erased), and greatly diminished short-term deficits where the remaining D0 and D1 were.

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"In contrast, weekly totals sharply dropped off to the north and west, and little or no precipitation was observed in the Dakotas, most of Minnesota, northeastern Nebraska, and extreme northwestern Iowa," the monitor states. "Although fall and winter normal are generally low in the northern Plains and upper Midwest, an extremely dry autumn and early December called for an expansion of D1 into areas with 25% to 50% of normal precipitation during the past 90 days (e.g., east-central and northwestern Minnesota). Elsewhere, no changes were made.

Meanwhile, the monitor reflects some improvement in the Southern Plains. Widespread welcome precipitation fell across much of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas as the recent bouts of precipitation (since mid-September) have greatly eased or eliminated short-term deficiencies. Unfortunately, long-term deficits remained, especially after the driest 12 months on record (Oct. 2010-Sept. 2011) in Texas and near-record 12-month dryness in surrounding states (OK, LA, NM) that was exacerbated by the record summer heat, which will take time and continued surplus precipitation for major improvement.

"Nevertheless, 2 to 4 inches of rain from central Texas northeastward into southeastern Oklahoma, plus 1 to 2 inches in parts of northern Texas, southern Oklahoma, and central and northern Kansas, were enough to make a dent in some of the severe, extreme, and exception drought areas," the monitor states. "In addition, 0.5 to 1 inches in the Texas Panhandle and the remainder of Oklahoma and Kansas also brought some modest improvements." But not all areas of Texas saw relief from the rains, the monitor notes. "For example, although parts of central and eastern Texas received between 1.5 and 3 inches of rain, SPI blends, long-term deficits (at 18-months, 25 to 35 inches), and soil moisture values still at D4 levels, and conditions were kept status-quo there," the monitor says. Farther north, where recent conditions have been better and long-term shortages were not as great as further south, the light to moderate precipitation (1 to 2 inches) provided a general 1-category improvement in most of Kansas, according to the monitor. "In western, southwestern, and southern Texas, the precipitation was light enough (less than 0.5 inches) to prevent deterioration, but not large enough for improvement," the monitor says.

The outlook over the next five days (December 8-12) calls for a storm system to track off the East Coast by late Thursday, bringing moderate to heavy precipitation to the mid-Atlantic and New England, with snow possible in parts of the central and northern Appalachians. Once this system departs, much quieter and colder weather will envelop the lower 48 states. The exceptions to this includes light to moderate rain in southern Texas and most of Florida, especially the Atlantic side. A weak clipper system may bring light precipitation from the northern Rockies to the lower Great Lakes region, and a cold front will approach the West Coast late in the period.



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