Drought Monitor: Rain to lead to lower temps in the West

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The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic: A warm and fairly dry pattern continued over the region for this week.  Eastern Pennsylvania, northern New Jersey, and western Virginia were the main areas to receive precipitation this last week, in the form of a few rain showers.  As the drought indicators continue to worsen, especially over the short term, expansion of D0 and D1 took place this week.  In Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and portions of eastern New York, D1 was expanded as it was also done in Delaware and eastern Maryland.  Abnormally dry conditions were also expanded in Maine, New Hampshire, northern Virginia, western Maryland and into the panhandle of West Virginia.  Not only are the short-term drought indicators looking worse, the river and streamflows in the region are well below normal for this time of year.

Southeast:  Overall, the showers were not widespread this week for the southeastern United States.  The main drought areas did not see any substantial rain that would lead to improvements, and the drought situation declined for the region.  In Florida, D4 was introduced in the Suwannee basin because of record low groundwater levels and reduced surface flows.  In west Florida, D3 was expanded to the east while in northeast Florida, D3 was pushed to the south. South Florida had D2 shift farther to the south and east but the consensus was to hold off on any new D3 in that part of the state.

South: With most areas recording record or near record temperatures for March, the water demand has increased rapidly over the last several weeks.  Dry conditions have been noted from middle Tennessee up into western Kentucky.  Because of the dry conditions, D0 was introduced this week and there were several discussions about pushing this into northern Alabama and more of eastern Tennessee.  It can be noted that this change was not made because of the lack of notable impacts at this point, with many expressing that it will not take much more dryness to have widespread concerns.

Midwest:  With some good rains over eastern Iowa, northern Missouri, southern Wisconsin and into Michigan, this region picked up some of the most widespread precipitation this week.  The only changes this week include an expansion of D1 out of southeastern Minnesota and into Wisconsin as they have not picked up any of the recent rains and conditions are drying out, especially with the warm temperatures.

The Plains: A dry week for the High Plains and some rains in the southern Plains warranted both improvements and some new drought areas.  Up north, the early warm up and dryness that has persisted for the most part since last fall brought with it some new drought regions.  In North Dakota, D1 was introduced in the western part of the state; in Nebraska, D1 was shifted out of northwest Iowa and into northeast Nebraska.  Because of standing water in agricultural fields, some D0 was eliminated in southeast North Dakota as there are no apparent moisture issues right now.  Through much of the High Plains, temperatures well above normal, high winds and a dry start to spring have started taking a toll on soil moisture conditions as they continue to drop.  Producers who are eagerly awaiting planting should have adequate moisture to start their crops but will need periodic and consistent precipitation by the end of spring or problems will arise.

For the southern Plains, good rains through the panhandle of Oklahoma and into the southwestern part of the state allowed for a categorical improvement to the drought intensity, with D4 being eliminated in the panhandle.  Good rains through west Texas and in and along the southern border also warranted some improvements, with many areas seeing a reduction in drought intensity and some D4 being eliminated in west Texas.  Portions of east Texas also picked up some rains and even heavier rains and severe weather coming after the end of the current Drought Monitor period.  These rains continued the improvements in the region with some D0 being eliminated and D1 improving along the Gulf Coast.

The West:  The snow totals continue to be below normal for much of the western United States, and coupled with temperatures well above normal, the region is seeing snowpack being reduced much earlier than normal.  A significant system did impact the Pacific Northwest, with coastal areas from Washington to northern California picking up some much needed precipitation.  In response to this event, some improvements were made in northern California and southern Oregon where the most significant precipitation was recorded.  For Colorado and Utah, the conditions were unusual, with the lack of snowfall in the upper elevations and the early melt.  In response, D2 was expanded in northwest Colorado and D1 was also expanded in western Colorado and into eastern Utah.  From eastern Wyoming up into Montana, D0 was expanded and included regions in western South Dakota and western Nebraska as this area has been very dry over the last 6-8 weeks and temperatures are still well above seasonal normals.  In the northwest portions of New Mexico, D0 was also introduced as warm and dry conditions are being experienced there as well.  Northwest Arizona also had D1 and D2 conditions expand while D0 was pushed to the east in portions of eastern Nevada.

Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico: No changes were made in Hawaii, Alaska or Puerto Rico this week.

Looking Ahead: Over the next five days (April 4-8) precipitation chances continue in the Pacific Northwest and northern Rocky Mountains, where up to an inch of precipitation could be recorded.  The central Plains to west Texas along with much of the Southeast look to have a good chance at rains.  The most rain is anticipated from southern Alabama and Mississippi into South Carolina, where up to 2 inches may be possible.  Temperatures are forecasted to be above normal from the Rocky Mountains (6-9 degrees Fahrenheit above normal) to the Gulf Coast (3 degrees Fahrenheit above normal) and cooler over the west coast with the continuing rain.

The CPC 6-10 day forecast (April 9-13) has much of the western and central United States anticipating temperatures above normal while the rains lingering along the east and west coasts are keeping temperatures below normal.  Precipitation chances look to be best over the Tennessee River valley, Alaska and northern Pacific Northwest while the best chance for below normal precipitation is in the Great Lakes region and in the southwest from Arizona to Texas.

Author: Brian Fuchs, National Drought Mitigation 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
S ... Short-Term, typically <6 months (e.g. agricultural, grasslands)
L ... Long-Term, typically >6 months (e.g. hydrology, ecology)


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