Drought Monitor: Drought more severe in Texas, impacting area agriculture

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Summary:  The Ohio River Valley was impacted for the third week in a row with rainfall, eliminating drought in this area.  Portions of Mississippi and Alabama have received as much as ten inches of rain over the last two weeks.  In Texas and Oklahoma, drought is becoming more severe and impacts in agriculture and wildland fire are apparent.

Northeast and Mid-Atlantic:  Drought-free conditions continue in the Northeastern United States this week.  Concerns regarding some minor flooding in western and northern Virginia and the surrounding area led to a one-category improvement from West Virginia to the Chesapeake Bay. 

Southeast: Western North Carolina received some beneficial precipitation, with some local amounts totaling as much as four inches.  The Piedmont and coastal plains were not as fortunate.  Groundwater, streamflow and water supply concerns are waning, but rainfall has not yet arrived on the severe drought region.  This week’s map depicts a tightened gradient between drought-free and moderate drought in the central part of the state, and abnormally dry conditions have expanded all the way to the coast.  In South Carolina, D1 is expanded in the southeast to reflect further drying in Colleton and Dorchester counties.

A large swath of heavy rainfall impacted Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and northern Georgia during this Drought Monitor period.  Local data report nearly ten inches of rain for the seven- to 14-day period.  Improvements in drought severity are made throughout this region, resulting in a two-category reduction across the Mississippi/Alabama border, and a large area of D0 that reflects long-term shortage of precipitation. 

In southern Tennessee, a one-category change to no drought and D0 is shown as a result of the wet period that started a few weeks ago.  This brings nearly all of the Volunteer State into drought-free status on the map.

This week’s widespread rainfall, one to two inches in most areas, held constant the drought conditions in Florida, with neither improvement nor degradation made to the map.

South:  Deteriorating conditions in Texas and Oklahoma led to increased drought severity this week.  In addition to the widespread wildfires in the region, impacts from agricultural areas are starting to be reported in counties along the Red River that illustrate the extreme nature of drought.  Other regions that have increased in severity this week include: Midland, TX, Childress and the panhandle of Texas, and south Texas.  South central Oklahoma has been drying out of late, and winter wheat is not in good condition.  Wichita Falls, TX, is in its second driest period for November to March 15, since 1850.  Pecos county, TX, is very short on rainfall, with just .01 inches reported since October 1.  D2 and D3 is expanded in east central Texas as well.

In the Oklahoma panhandle, severe drought is depicted as deterioration continues in field conditions and a persistent lack of rainfall. 

Central:  Flooding concerns continue in the Ohio River Valley, and this week’s map brings this area into drought-free status.  Central Missouri received two to three inches of rain for the seven-day period, and improvements are made in this region. 

High Plains: The Dakotas are bracing for spring flooding as temperatures are warming and their thick snowpack begins to melt.  In the Nebraska panhandle, the area of abnormally dry conditions was reduced to better reflect winter season precipitation totals that are near to above normal. 

West: Drought continues to hold its grip in the Southwest.  Extreme (D3) is expanded to include parts or all of the southern New Mexico counties of Hidalgo, Luna, Sierra and Dona Ana.  The Standardized Precipitation Index has values of -2 to -3 across this region, in addition to reports from locals noting increased fire danger.  Moderate drought is expanded to cover central New Mexico, including Albuquerque and Santa Fe. 

Although no changes are made in Arizona this week, the north area of abnormally dry conditions is expanded to include southern San Juan county in Utah.  Precipitation data and other drought indicators show short-term dryness in this low-elevation region of the San Juan River watershed.

A small area of improvement is also made in southeastern Wyoming, as a reflection of near- to above-normal precipitation in the Cheyenne, WY, area for the winter season thus far. 

Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico: In Hawaii, reports of improving field conditions on Molokai led to a one-category improvement on this island.  Elsewhere in Hawaii there was no change.

An assessment of Alaska’s winter season precipitation and streamflow for this time of year changed the depiction on this week’s map.  D0 is introduced in the south and southeast part of the state, and is reduced in the east central region.

Puerto Rico’s dry season is even drier than normal, and rainfall and streamflow data are showing it.  Abnormally dry, or D0, was introduced in the southeast. 

Looking Ahead:  A strong low pressure system will move onshore in the western US early in the next US Drought Monitor period, bringing a few feet of snow and several inches of water equivalent to the northern Sierra Nevada mountains in California.  As this system moves inland, it will carry beneficial snow to the higher elevations in the northern Rocky Mountains and low elevation rain.  High pressure will take hold over the Southeast, which could exacerbate drought conditions in that region over the weekend.  Snow and rain will continue to impact the Northeast, particularly from upstate New York to Maine for the next few days.

In the extended three to seven day period, the unsettled, wet pattern is projected to stay in place over the Western and Great Lakes states into New England. This will be accompanied by cooler than normal temperatures in these regions.  Below average rainfall and above normal temperatures may set the stage for more severe drought in the south and southeast, while providing a welcome respite from the heavy precipitation in Mississippi and Alabama.

Author: Laura Edwards, Western Regional Climate Center

Dryness Categories

D0 ... Abnormally Dry ... used for areas showing dryness but not yet in drought, or for areas recovering from drought.

Drought Intensity Categories
D1 ... Moderate Drought
D2 ... Severe Drought
D3 ... Extreme Drought
D4 ... Exceptional Drought

Drought or Dryness Types
A ... Agricultural
H ... Hydrological


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Lyntha Hill    
Abernathy Texas  |  March, 17, 2011 at 10:13 AM

According to your map Abernathy is Abnormally dry. At my house we have measured 0.4 inches since July 2010. That seems extreme to me. How dry does it have to be to be considered a drought. Looks like it here.


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