Dec. 29 U.S. Drought Update

Storms dropped light to moderate precipitation on the Northwest and northern half of the Rockies, and widespread moderate to heavy rains fell from northeastern Texas northeastward into the southern and central Appalachians. Light to moderate precipitation also fell on the Northeast and the Carolinas. Dry conditions prevailed across the Southwest, the southern third of the High Plains, along the Gulf Coast, and in parts of the mid-Atlantic.


Light to moderate precipitation fell across much of New England and parts of the mid-Atlantic, with lake-enhanced snows dumping several feet on favored downwind locations of Lakes Erie and Ontario. In northern New England, 1.5 to 2 inches of precipitation was enough to negate short-term deficits in east-central New York and southwestern Vermont, but lower precipitation totals in New England were not great enough to significantly reduce short-term deficiencies. In central Pennsylvania, areas of abnormal dryness and moderate drought were slightly expanded. Between 0.5 and 1.5 inches of precipitation fell along the border of southeastern Pennsylvania and northeastern Maryland, delaying the addition of moderate drought there for at least another week.


General deterioration occurred in Virginia, northern North Carolina, southern Alabama and Georgia, and northern Florida. In contrast, slight improvements were made in northern Alabama, northern Georgia, and South Carolina, where decent rains fell. During the past 60-days, less than half of normal precipitation fell on central Virginia and North Carolina. Accordingly, moderate drought was extended southward from Maryland into central Virginia and westward toward Roanoke and Lynchburg, VA. Abnormal dryness was also expanded westward in south-central Virginia and west-central North Carolina. In addition, abnormal dryness was expanded in southern Alabama, and moderate drought increased in south-central Alabama and the Panhandle of Florida.

In contrast, moderate to heavy rain was measured in the northern thirds of Alabama and Georgia, into most of South Carolina, and in western North Carolina. The precipitation was enough to remove abnormal dryness from northern Alabama but not quite enough to completely remove abnormal dryness and moderate drought in central sections of the Carolinas and northeastern Georgia.


Widespread moderate to heavy precipitation fell across a large portion of short-term drought in the lower Mississippi Valley and southern Great Plains. Light to moderate precipitation fell in eastern Texas and Oklahoma, northern Louisiana, northern Arkansas, central Mississippi, and eastern Tennessee. Accordingly, 1- and 2-category improvements were made in northeastern Texas, southeastern Oklahoma, northern Louisiana, much of Arkansas and Tennessee, and northern Mississippi (with improvements extending into neighboring areas of the Midwest and Southeast). A small area of 3-category improvement was made in central Arkansas, where 8 to 10 inches of rain converted an area from extreme drought to abnormal dryness.

However, in the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles, western Oklahoma, and southwestern Kansas, there was little or no precipitation this week. Moderate drought was expanded across the Texas Panhandle, western Oklahoma, and southwestern Kansas, with severe drought increased in the Oklahoma Panhandle, southwestern Kansas, and northern Texas.


Light snow fell across parts of northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, southern Iowa, northern Illinois and Indiana, northwestern Ohio, and Michigan. No changes were made in these states. In Missouri, southern Illinois, and Kentucky, moderate to heavy rains led to a 1-category improvement. In contrast, the small area of moderate drought in northeastern Missouri, which missed out on the precipitation, was merged with the larger area of moderate drought in western Illinois. Light precipitation over central Missouri prevented the area from expanding westward.


Light snow fell across Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, the northern halves of Colorado and Kansas, and southern South Dakota. Short-term moderate and severe drought were expanded in southwestern and central Kansas.


Significant precipitation was limited to the Washington and Oregon Coasts, the northern Cascades, and the northern and central Rockies. Little or no precipitation was observed across much of the Southwest, Great Basin, and southern Rockies. Some slight improvement in the western edges of the abnormally dry and moderate drought areas in northwestern Montana were made, but the rest of Montana remained unchanged.


Looking ahead

The period of Dec. 28-Jan. 1 appears to be mostly dry, with the greatest precipitation expected in the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies, offshore and along the Gulf and southern Atlantic coasts, and in the typical snow belt locations of the Great Lakes. Little or no precipitation is favored elsewhere.

During the Jan. 2-6 period, odds favor near- to below-median precipitation across much of the lower 48 States, with elevated chances for above-median precipitation limited to along the Gulf and southern Atlantic Coasts and in Alaska. Subnormal temperatures are expected to persist in the eastern half of the contiguous U.S., with above normal readings probable in the Southwest, California, and Alaska.

Drought occurs periodically across the nation and can cause devastation for crops, residents, and wildlife—even if it's only temporary. Other parts of the nation, such as California and, more recently, the South, are plagued by drought. Long-term drought impacts the economy, agriculture, and the daily lives of residents. These conditions also increase the risks and devastation from wildfires. In such desperate conditions, community and state leaders have implemented plans to conserve water and replenish natural sources through desalination, rationing, recycling, reusing, and even purchasing water from other locations. Water rationing for both residents and businesses disrupts productivity and the local economy. Manufacturers are turning to self-sustained methods for maintaining production capacity, such as zero liquid discharge (ZLD) and water reuse systems for their process water. Residents are required to limit watering, swap out foliage for drought-resistant plants, and more.

Data retrieved from United States Drought Monitor.

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