No Drought-Busting Weather in Sight

August 18, 2011 05:42 AM

Provided by Laura Edwards, Western Regional Climate Center

Many areas of the United States found some drought relief in a series of storms from Texas to New Hampshire. Agricultural sectors from New Mexico to Illinois continue to experience stress on crops and rangelands, particularly in non-irrigated areas. Drought recovery is slow in the heart of the states with exceptional drought.


Regional Weather Highlights

Northeast and Mid-Atlantic
Widespread improvements in the depiction across these regions reflect the welcome rains during this monitoring period. From Maine to Virginia, one-category changes are made in nearly all of last week’s drought regions. An area of two to six inches of rainfall also occurred along the Lake Erie coast. The precipitation pattern was highly variable across the region, and some areas remain wetter or drier than depicted on the National scale.
Several areas of less severe drought conditions are reflected from the Carolinas to Florida and in western Alabama.  The worst areas in Georgia have been reassessed, and are now in D3, extreme drought severity. A drought-free region in the Carolinas is expanded as storm systems continue to pass from Charlotte, NC, to Charleston, SC.  Across Tennessee and into western North Carolina, abnormally dry conditions have developed and this is depicted on the map, due to deficits in rainfall over the last 30 to 60 days. 
A band of exceptional rainfall totals from Kansas to Mississippi was beneficial and created some short-term relief from the extended drought, but missed southwest Kansas where Stanton, Grant and Kearny counties are now degraded to D3.  A large swath of one-category improvement is made to reflect storm totals upwards of six inches, primarily impacting eastern Oklahoma and Arkansas.  Even though a second area of considerable rainfall was reported in central Oklahoma, there has not been a corresponding reduction in drought impacts and thus the depiction remains the same. 
Central and Midwest
Abnormally dry conditions have developed in the Ohio River valley, from Indiana to the Mississippi River.  Recent reports indicate that corn and other crops are showing signs of stress. Soil moisture is running lower than normal in this area, and is especially impacting fields with sandier soils. A large D0 is introduced this week, with two areas of moderate drought in Kentucky. Precipitation data for the last 30 days show shortages as well.
In northwestern Ohio, a respite from the dryness has arrived and reductions in both D1 and D0 are made following recent precipitation, and reduced reports of impacts.  Elsewhere, abnormally dry conditions were alleviated in northern Illinois, southwest Iowa and southeastern Nebraska.  Even with the removal of D0 conditions in these areas, there are still pockets of residual dryness too small to depict on a National scale.  Further west, two new areas of D0 are introduced in northeastern South Dakota and in the Black Hills.  Rainfall deficits are beginning to accumulate this season, and stress in the later-planted soybean and corn fields south of Aberdeen is apparent. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula’s dry streak continues.
Rainfall over the last month has brought relief to these southeastern deserts.  In northwestern Arizona, the lack of strong monsoonal moisture has created abnormal dryness, or D0, in Mohave, Yavapai and Coconino counties.  Eastern Arizona has fared slightly better. Additionally, the monsoon has brought enough storm activity to southwestern New Mexico to warrant a change to extreme drought in and around Las Cruces.

The Weather Ahead

The current forecast for the next several days includes a ridge holding over the western U.S. and a trough in the East. Accompanying this weather pattern is drier and warmer in the West, and wetter and cooler in the East. 
Cooler conditions may affect most of Alaska with wetter areas along the south and southeast with this large-scale weather pattern.  Should this forecast verify, precipitation in the eastern states could further alleviate drought concerns that have been in place for many months. 
In the extended outlook, this same pattern is projected, and could prove beneficial after this year’s long drought period. The majority of the exceptional drought areas fall in between the wet and dry regions to the east and west, so some improvement may come in the form of localized systems, but no drought-busters are in sight at this time.  
Drought Monitor 8 18 11
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