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Drought Monitor Shows Expansion in the Plains

09:14AM Apr 24, 2014

For the contiguous 48 states, the U.S. Drought Monitor showed 38.4% of the area in moderate drought or worse, compared with 37.8% last week and 47.3% a year ago. The monitor reflects deepening drought in portions of eastern South Dakota, on the central Kansas and Oklahoma border and the Panhandle /South Plains of Texas.

20140422 total chng PW

Chart above shows changes in drought ratings by the monitor.

20140422 usdm home

The monitor states: "Weather systems moving in the upper-level westerly flow generated low pressure systems and surface fronts which moved across the contiguous United States this week. Two storm tracks resulted, with one moving across the northern tier states and the other from southern New Mexico, across the Gulf of Mexico coast, and up the East Coast. Above-normal rainfall was widespread across southern New Mexico, the Texas Trans Pecos, and the coastal Southeast. Below-normal precipitation dominated the rest of the country, with much of the Southwest again receiving virtually no precipitation. Weekly temperatures averaged above normal in the West and below normal in the East."

The Plains: Drier-than-normal weather dominated the Plains this week and much of the last six months, reports the monitor. A colder-than-normal winter and early spring have delayed agricultural activities. The USDA rated topsoil moisture conditions short or very short (dry or very dry) for 72% of Kansas, 54% of Nebraska, 50% of Colorado, and 23% of South Dakota. D0 expanded across eastern South Dakota to reflect dryness at the 30-day to 6-month time scales. Most of Kansas and Nebraska were already in moderate to extreme (D1-D3) drought, but an oval of D3 was added in central Kansas and D2 expanded eastward from there to reflect extreme low precipitation values at 30-90 days, as well as poor USDA soil moisture and crop condition reports. In southeast Colorado, D3-D4 expanded while the western edge of D0-D1 contracted. The D3 expansion in southeast Colorado bled into western Kansas, the monitor states.

Midwest: East-central Missouri benefited from heavy precipitation earlier in the month, while the rest of the state has been below normal. But longer-term (90 days and longer) dryness is evident. Streamflow conditions varied across the state. D0 in east-central Missouri was pulled back to reflect recovered farm ponds and creeks. But April 20 reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rated 21% of the topsoil and 72% of the subsoil moisture short to very short (dry to very dry) in the northeast district, which prompted expansion of D0.

The South: Weather systems moving in the southern storm track dropped 1+-inch rains over parts of Texas and Oklahoma, but the storms affected a relatively small area. Most of the South was drier than normal this week, continuing a pattern which has dominated the last six months and longer. The High Plains region of the Texas panhandle has had the driest October-March 42-month period in the 1895-2014 record during October 2010-March 2014, with range, pastures, and wheat struggling, and even irrigation was not helping much. D0-D4 expanded in many parts of Texas, D4 expanded in the Oklahoma panhandle, and D3 pushed into north central Oklahoma and bled into adjoining parts of Kansas, the monitors says.

The Southeast: Widespread 2-4-inch rains, with locally over 5 inches, fell from the Florida panhandle to coastal North Carolina, the monitor reports.. One-plus-inch rains were common from central Georgia to parts of western North Carolina. Rainfall amounts were significantly less to the north and west, further away from the coastal storm track. Below-normal year-to-date precipitation and low streamflows prompted the expansion of D0 across northern Mississippi, southern to central Tennessee, northern Alabama, northern Georgia, and a tiny portion of extreme southwestern North Carolina. Rainfall from the previous week, and earlier, prompted the pullback of D0-D1 in west central Mississippi, but D1 expanded slightly into the drier parts of northern Mississippi. The impacts indicator was split between S to the north and SL to the south to differentiate between the shorter-term and longer-term dryness.

In its outlook for the next week, the monitor says forecasts call for frontal-low pressure systems to bring an inch or more of precipitation across a large part of the country, stretching from the eastern and northern Great Plains to the Appalachians, with 3 inches or more across parts of the Midwest to Deep South. Another area of 2+-inch precipitation is projected for coastal Washington and Oregon, and parts of the northern Rockies, while the Southwest is expected to remain mostly dry. Temperatures for the April 24-30 period are predicted to be warmer than normal in the southern states ahead of the front, with colder-than-normal air from the north moving across the country behind the frontal systems.