Moderate to severe drought affecting western U.S.

6:26 PM, Aug 15, 2013   |    comments
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This US Drought Monitor week was dominated by a persistent weather system that dumped precipitation from eastern Colorado, through the Southern Plains and Tennessee Valley, and into the Mid-Atlantic and southern New England over multiple days.

Widespread areas of two-plus inches were experienced with some locations receiving over five inches from the storm. While there were numerous reports of wind and hail from Colorado to Maryland, no tornadoes have been reported, according to NOAA's Storm Prediction Center.

The East: The eastern U.S. remains drought free again this week. With the exception of a small area of the South currently experiencing Moderate Drought (D1), there is no other drought east of the Mississippi River. Likewise, Abnormal Dryness (D0) is also absent east of the Mississippi River with the exception of select locations in the South and Midwest.

The South and Southern Plains: Beneficial rains fell across portions of northern Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas this week leading to improvements in drought conditions in western Kansas, western and central Oklahoma, and the east and Panhandle of Texas. Conversely, Moderate Drought (D1) and Abnormal Dryness (D0) expanded from eastern Texas into Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas.

The Central and Northern Plains and Midwest: Beneficial rain improved drought conditions in southern South Dakota as well as northern Nebraska. Conversely, Iowa experienced an expansion of Moderate Drought (D1) and Abnormal Dryness (D0) in the central and eastern part of the state.

The West: Now in its second year of below normal rainfall, and on the heels of experiencing its driest January to July on record, Extreme Drought (D3) conditions were introduced into southern California. Impacts are beginning to be felt in this, and surrounding areas, including dried up rivers, stressed vegetation, and possible water restrictions. Likewise, Extreme Drought (D3) expanded in southwest Idaho as the lack of precipitation mounts. Conversely, conditions improved slightly in eastern New Mexico and eastern Colorado this week. Areas of Exceptional Drought (D4) were eased in both states.

Wildfires, although not directly correlated to drought conditions, remain a problem in parts of the West. In particular, the National Interagency Fire Center reported nearly four dozen active, large wildfires on August 14, mostly in California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Specifically, in southwestern Idaho, the Pony Complex has charred more than 140,000 acres of timber, brush, and grass, while the Elk Fire has consumed nearly 100,000 acres of vegetation.

Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico: Rain from Tropical Storm Gil alleviated Abnormal Dryness (D0) along the north side of the big Island and Maui while drought intensified across Molokai with the entire island now experiencing Moderate Drought (D1). Likewise, Moderate Drought (D1) spread southward in Alaska. Puerto Rico remains drought free.

Looking Ahead: During the August 15-19, 2013 time period, there is an above-normal chance for precipitation in the Southeast and in areas of the High Plains. Temperatures are expected to be above-normal in the West, mostly centered on the Rockies, and below-normal in the Southern Plains and into the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic.

For the ensuing 5 days (August 20-24, 2013), the odds favor above-normal temperatures throughout the entire West, across the northern tier of the country and into New England, as well as across southern Alaska. Normal to below-normal temperatures are favored from the Central Plains, into the South and the Southeast. Above normal-precipitation is likely across most of the East Coast, through the Southeast, and into the Southern Plains, as well as in southern Alaska. The Northern Plains, Northwest, and northern Alaska are all likely to see below-normal precipitation.

Author: Michael Brewer, National Climatic Data Center, NOAA


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