This week's National Drought Monitor reflects another round of light to moderate precipitation that fell on most of the Southern and Central Plains, continuing a pattern of near to above-normal precipitation that started in mid-September. This was good news after Texas recorded the driest October-September period (12-months) on record (since 1895) in 2010-2011, with Oklahoma and New Mexico experiencing their second driest such period, Louisiana their third driest, and Kansas their tenth driest.
The monitor states that in Texas, 1 to 3 inches of rain was recorded in southeastern sections, while 0.5 to 1 inch fell on east-central and northeastern sections. Farther north, 0.5 to 1.5 inches of precipitation occurred along the Kansas and Oklahoma border, while 0.3 to an inch was measured in the rest of Oklahoma and central and eastern Kansas. "Accordingly, some 1-category improvements were made in eastern, south-central, southeastern, north-central, and northern Panhandle of Texas, in eastern Oklahoma, and along the Kansas-Oklahoma border," states the monitor. "In contrast, lake levels remained essentially unchanged from last week elsewhere. Major soil moisture issues below the topsoil remained in west-central and northwestern areas. Lakes at Great Salt Plains (Alfalfa County), Fort Supply (Woodward County), Canton (Blaine County), Altus (Greer County), Tom Steed (Kiowa County), and Skiatook (Osage/Washington Counties) are down 40-80 percent with almost no recharge in the past month. Therefore, D3 and D4 remained in western and central Oklahoma."
In Iowa, 0.5 to 1 inch of precipitation in southeastern portions was enough to improve drought (D0 and D1) by a category, but drier weather over the rest of the state kept conditions status-quo. "November has been a month of contrasts in Iowa, with Keokuk (in the southeast) recording 6.23 inches (third highest November total among 140 years of record), while Sioux Center (in the northwest) measuring only 0.03 inches (fourth lowest November in 105 years of records)," it states.
In Minnesota and the Dakotas, an unseasonably dry autumn continued, with many areas of southern Minnesota (and bordering areas of South Dakota) ranking below the first percentile for precipitation. "As a result, any area in this percentile was made at least D1. Farther north, D1 was added by the North Dakota and Minnesota border for the same reason, while D2 was expanded in northeastern Minnesota where 18 week departures exceeded 7 inches," states the monitor. "The separate D0 area of southwestern North Dakota and northwestern South Dakota was expanded eastward and merged with the large D0 area as short-term conditions (at 30-, 60-, and 90-days) were essentially the same across southern North Dakota. Fortunately, the spring and summer months were relatively wet or conditions would be much worse now."
In its outlook, the monitor states for the next 5 days (December 1-5), a storm system is expected to develop and strengthen in the Southwest. This system will slowly track eastward, bringing welcome precipitation to the Southwest and eventually to the southern and central Plains. Largest 5-day precipitation totals (2 to 3 inches) are expected in Texas, northern Louisiana, and Arkansas. Meanwhile, little or no precipitation is forecast for both coasts. 5-day average temperatures should be subnormal in the Intermountain West, Rockies, and Plains, and above-normal in the eastern third of the nation.