NOAA Monthly Drought Outlook – April

Above-average precipitation during March continued to result in a large decrease in drought coverage and intensity across the Great Basin and central to southern Rockies. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor (valid on March 26, 2019), drought coverage across the continental U.S. is below 5 percent for the first time since May 2017.

Below-average precipitation during March resulted in an increase of abnormal dryness and short-term drought across parts of Texas and the Southeast. Long-term drought persists along the Alaska Panhandle, while abnormal dryness has recently expanded throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

Drought improvement or removal is forecast for parts of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, and Utah, based on above average snow water content and recharge associated with snowmelt this spring. Also, above-average precipitation is likely to continue through April. Persistence is more likely across parts of Oregon and northern Washington where large precipitation deficits were observed dating back to October 1, 2018.

Drought improvement or removal forecast for Texas and the Southeast is consistent with the 7-day precipitation forecast along with the Week-2 and monthly precipitation outlooks calling for enhanced odds of above-average precipitation. Due to the wet winter and anomalously high soil moisture, drought development is unlikely across the central and eastern U.S. during April.

Long-term drought is likely to persist along the Alaska Panhandle through the end of April. Drought development is forecast for the leeward side of the Hawaiian Islands as suppressed rainfall is likely during the next month. Drought removal is expected across northwest Puerto Rico, but persistence is more likely across central Puerto Rico where larger precipitation deficits exist.

Forecast confidence is high for the Midwest Region.

  • Widespread flooding continues across parts of the Midwest region, especially across Iowa, Missouri, southern Wisconsin, and Illinois. During the past 90 days, precipitation surpluses range from 2 to 6 inches throughout much of the Midwest with soil moisture ranking in the 99th percentile for this time of year.
  • Based on these wet initial conditions, drought development is unlikely during the outlook period.

Forecast confidence is high for the High Plains region.

  • The northern and central Great Plains remain drought-free, and above-average precipitation this winter resulted in major flooding along the lower Missouri River. Drought development is unlikely by the end of April since soil moisture ranks above the 90th percentile from South Dakota south to Kansas.
  • Major drought improvement occurred across the central Rockies this winter.
  • Although development is not anticipated across northern North Dakota by the end of April, this region will be closely monitored later this spring since 30-day precipitation has averaged slightly below normal.
  • Snow water equivalent (SWE) is near 150 percent of normal for late March across southern Colorado. Based on the above average SWE and an expected wet start to April, removal of drought is forecast across southern Colorado.

Forecast confidence is moderate for the Southern Region.

  • Abnormal dryness and moderate drought expanded across parts of the lower Mississippi Valley and Texas where 30-day precipitation deficits range from 2 to 4 inches.
  • The 7-day precipitation forecast calls for 1 to 3 inches of rainfall during the first week of April over these areas and the wet pattern is likely to continue through mid-April. Therefore, drought development is not expected where abnormal dryness has recently expanded.
  • The improvement/removal of drought forecast for Texas is consistent with the 7-day precipitation forecast along with the Week-2 and monthly precipitation outlooks.

Forecast confidence is moderate for the Southeast Region.

  • Abnormal dryness (D0) and moderate drought (D1) recently expanded across southern Alabama, the Florida Panhandle, southern Georgia, and coastal South Carolina.
  • 30-day precipitation deficits range from 2 to 4 inches in these D0 and D1 areas.
  • Based on the 7-day precipitation forecast of 0.5 to 2 inches of rainfall along with enhanced odds for above precipitation during Week-2 and April, removal is expected for these D1 areas.

Forecast confidence is high for continued improvement/removal for the central to southern Rockies but low for the Pacific Northwest.

  • Abundant precipitation including high-elevation snow continued into March from California east to the central and southern Rockies. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor (valid on March 26), drought coverage decreased from 26.50 to 9.03 percent across the West since late February.
  • Long-term moderate to severe drought continues across parts of the Great Basin and the Southwest, but snow water equivalent averages 100 to 200 percent of normal in these areas.
  • Snow melt along with increased chances for above normal precipitation during April supports continued improvement to severe drought (D2) and removal of moderate drought (D1). Persistence is more likely across southern New Mexico since this region is not expected to benefit from snow melt.
  • Forecast confidence is lower across the Pacific Northwest due to a number of conflicting factors. The most likely area to experience drought removal is southern and eastern Oregon due to above average snow water content, 125 to 175 percent of normal.
  • The first half of April is likely to be wetter-than-normal across the Pacific Northwest due to an amplified upper-level trough upstream over the North Pacific and enhanced onshore flow. Despite this predicted wetness, persistence of long-term drought across the remainder of Oregon and northern Washington is the most likely outcome since the upcoming precipitation is not expected to offset the large precipitation deficits (8 to 16 inches, or more) for the water year to date (since October 1, 2018).
  • The wet start to April is expected to delay any drought development across the Pacific Northwest.

Forecast confidence is high for the Northeast Region.

  • The Northeast region has remained drought-free since early November. Although precipitation has averaged below normal during the past 30 days across much of the Northeast, soil moisture ranks above the 95th percentile.
  • Based on these initial soil moisture conditions and a wet start to April, development is unlikely to occur within the next month.

Forecast confidence is moderate for Alaska.

  • Moderate to severe drought coverage remained nearly steady along the southern Alaska Panhandle this past month. Since April is relatively a drier month and there is not a strong wet signal in the monthly precipitaiton tools, persistence is forecast for the southern Alaska Panhandle.

Forecast confidence is high for Hawaii.

  • Abnormal dryness (D0) returned to Hawaii during late March. The North American Multi-Model Ensemble indicates below normal precipitation during April. Therefore, development is forecast across the leeward side of the Hawaiian Islands.

Forecast confidence is moderate for Puerto Rico.

  • Drought coverage (30.38 percent) remained steady across Puerto Rico during mid to late March. Persistence is expected across interior areas of central Puerto Rico since 90-day precipitation deficits range from 4 to 8 inches.
  • Since the climatology becomes increasingly wet during April, removal of moderate drought (D1) is forecast for northwest Puerto Rico where precipitation deficits are lower.

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