For the contiguous 48 states, the U.S. Drought Monitor showed 37.98% of the area in moderate drought or worse (D1-D4), compared with 38.37% a week earlier. This compares to a rating of 50.82% a year ago. Minor improvements in the eastern half of the U.S. prompted the reduction in the percentage reported in drought this week with almost no droughthy areas reported east of the Mississippi. The exceptions are western Wisconsin, northwestern Illinois and a narrow strip through northern Mississippi.
The South: The monitor reports the same storm system that brought good rains to the southeast also caught portions of Arkansas, east Texas, and Louisiana. Outside of these areas, the remainder of the region was mostly dry. Although dry, temperatures remained at or below normal, with departures from normal of 2-4 degrees Fahrenheit through portions of west Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Improvements were made to the D0 in northern Louisiana, removing all of the abnormal dryness this week. In southern Arkansas, D0 was also improved. The rains in east Texas allowed for the improvement of some of the D0 and D1 areas, pushing them to the west, while some D2 was also improved to D1. Similar improvements were made to the D0 and D1 areas in southeast Oklahoma, the monitor notes. The Big Bend area of Texas did receive some precipitation, which allowed for improvements to the D1 there. The intensity of the drought conditions in the Texas panhandle, Oklahoma panhandle, and southwest Oklahoma worsened this week. D4 was expanded in both Texas and Oklahoma while D2 and D3 were pushed farther to the east in Oklahoma.
In the Midwest, the monitor says another week of below-normal temperatures in the region stalled the arrival of spring. Most areas were 4-6 degrees Fahrenheit below normal for the week. The southern portions of the region did see the springtime clash of warm moist air from the south along with cold air from the north, resulting in some thunderstorms in central Missouri and eastward into southern Illinois and Indiana. Some areas of central Missouri and southern Indiana recorded more than 4 inches of rain with these events, which allowed for improvements in the drought depiction in the region. All of the recently introduced D0 was removed from southern Illinois while the D0 and D1 conditions in central Missouri and western Illinois were improved a full category where the greatest amounts of precipitation were recorded. the monitor states.
The Plains: As was observed in the Midwest, the plains states are experiencing a delayed spring with cooler than normal temperatures. This week was not any different, with departures from normal temperatures of 4-6 degrees Fahrenheit quite common. Precipitation was scarce in the region, the monitor notes, with a few areas of eastern Kansas, northeast and central Nebraska, and western South Dakota recording amounts that were generally less than 1 inch total for the week. Even with the delayed spring, the departures from normal precipitation for the year are starting to reach 4 inches below normal from southern South Dakota into eastern Nebraska as well as eastern and central Kansas. Drought conditions were expanded in southeast Nebraska so that D1 now includes the entire region. In South Dakota, D0 was expanded into the southern portions of the state and including all of north central Nebraska as well. As the northern plains begin to thaw, there is ample moisture in the snowpack, which will help diminish any concerns for dryness, allowing for the D0 in North Dakota to be removed this week as well, the monitor says.
In its outlook for the next seven days, the monitor notes that over the next 5-7 days, an active weather pattern will take shape over portions of the Plains, Midwest, and southeastern United States. Precipitation chances and amounts are greatest over the Midwest, the Ohio River Valley, and portions of the Gulf Coast. Areas of thunderstorms may produce 2-3 inches of rain locally. Precipitation chances are also high over the central to northern Rocky Mountains. Temperatures during this time should be above normal over the western United States, where high temperatures will be up to 12 degrees above normal in the Great Basin and northern California. Normal to slightly below normal high temperatures are expected in the plains and northern plains, respectively, while high temperatures will be above normal over the eastern United States.