Drought Now Versus Outlook: Improvement Expected Across Midwest

March 20, 2014 04:31 AM



The U.S. Drought Monitor reflects just over half of the contiguous U.S. is covered by some form of drought, which is minor improvement from the previous week. But if the Seasonal Drought Outlook is accurate, that percentage will continue to decline as the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center (CPC) says the removal of drought is "likely" across the eastern portions of Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, as well as drought areas of the central Midwest. It says drought will linger but improve across central and western Nebraska and much of Kansas, but says drought will "persist of intensify" across southwest Kansas, western Oklahoma and central and western Texas, as well as across the Southwest and much of the West.

Also check: NWS Spring Outlook Provides Little Precip Guidance


In the latest week, the Drought Monitor notes that recent precip was mainly confined to the drought-free eastern U.S., although some localized relief was seen across south-central portions of the nation. "Meanwhile, drought persisted or intensified across the West, where alarmingly low water-year precipitation and meager mountain snowpacks continued," it states.

In the the Drought Outlook, which runs through June 30, the CPC says across the central portion of the contiguous U.S., drought improvement and/or removal is anticipated over the lower central and southern Great Plains and Upper and Middle Mississippi Valley. "However, farther west across the High Plains, the odds for improvement or removal are not as good, prompting persistence of drought conditions," it states, noting that the current neutral state of ENSO is used in the forecast, with a gradual transition to a "borderline El Nino by the end of the period."

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The CPC says its forecast guidance for the Central and Southern Plains is "low to moderate," but notes that long-term dryness and drought continues to influence the Central and Southern Plains. "The PDI (Palmer Drought Severity Index) shows that 3-6 inches of rain are needed in the drier Texas Panhandle to end the current drought. Some of the impacts of the current drought include significantly reduced surface moisture, which is beginning to affect early-planted crops from the Texas Panhandle into central Texas. Forty to 50% (or more) of rangelands in both Texas and Oklahoma are starting the growing season in poor to very poor condition. Low reservoir levels are also a concern," it states.

Additionally, the CPC states, "There are conflicting and/or weak climate signals for precipitation in the Central and Southern Plains during both April and AMJ (April, May and June), so EC (equal chances of normal, below- and above-normal precip) is deemed the best bet. Near- to above-normal temperatures are anticipated during these same periods. Climatologically, a significant fraction (55% to 60%) of the annual precipitation is received in this region during the AMJ time frame. With no clear precipitation signal from the CPC outlooks, it is reasoned that the lower Plains is more susceptible to the influx of low-level Gulf moisture and frontal boundaries, and has the best odds for drought removal. The odds of getting drought improvement or removal rapidly diminishes westward across the High Plains."

The CPC says its forecast guidance for the Midwest is also "low to moderate," but it says ongoing below-normal temps have resulted in what seems like a long winter season. "From about central Iowa northward, soils are frozen down to 5 feet in some locations. Like last April, this frozen soil will take a while to thaw, especially given the cold temperature outlook for the next few weeks, which will delay planting in this region," it states.

Additionally, the CPC states, "From about central Iowa northward, soils are frozen down to 5 feet in some locations. Like last April, this frozen soil will take a while to thaw, especially given the cold temperature outlook for the next few weeks, which will delay planting in this region. Below-normal temperatures are favored for the Upper Mississippi Valley in both April and April-June. For the Middle Mississippi Valley, near- to below-normal temperatures are favored. Climatologically, these areas experience a ramping up of precipitation in AMJ, receiving between 50% and 60% of their annual total. Removal of drought throughout this region is based on the extended-range outlooks and climatology, since there are no clear indications for precipitation in CPC’s 30-day and 90-day outlooks."


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