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      Drought Monitor Weekly: Continued Expansion and Degradation

      Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon


      This U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) week saw continued deterioration in conditions across areas of the Mid-Atlantic (Virginia, North Carolina) and the Southeast (South Carolina, Georgia) in response to below-normal precipitation (past 30- to 90-day period), declining soil moisture and streamflow levels.

      Likewise, drought-affected areas expanded and intensified on the map in areas of the South including Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas as well as in the Southern Plains of Oklahoma, where overall warm and dry conditions have prevailed during the past 30- to 120-day period.

      Across areas of the Northern Plains, Upper Midwest, and the Northeast, light-to-heavy snowfall accumulations were observed during the past week. The heaviest accumulations (8-18 inches) were centered on northern portions of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, while lake-effect snowfall (2 to 8 inches) impacted areas downwind of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario in New York, according to snowfall analysis from the National Weather Service (NWS) National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center (NOHRSC).

      Out West, some areas including the North Cascades, Sierra Nevada, and the Northern and Central Rockies, received much-needed snowfall this past week. However, basin-level snowpack conditions remained below normal across the entire western United States.

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      In Hawaii, a Kona Low delivered very heavy rainfall accumulations (highest totals exceeding 16+ inches) leading to widespread flooding, power outages, and damage to infrastructure in areas across the Hawaiian Island this week. Impacts from the multi-day event led Hawaii Governor Ige to declare a state of emergency on December 6.

      With the meteorological autumn (September-November) coming to a close, the Lower 48 experienced its third warmest fall on record with the largest mean temperature departures from average observed across areas of the Northern and Central Plains, according to NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI).

      In terms of fall precipitation, the driest conditions were observed across parts of the Southwest, Texas, Montana, Wisconsin, and the Carolinas.


      During the past week, light rainfall accumulations (< 1 inch) were observed across areas of Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. During the past 60-day period, precipitation has been below normal (1-to-7-inch deficits) across most of the region with exception of portions of Florida.

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      On this week’s map, areas of Abnormally Dry (D0), Moderate Drought (D1), and Severe Drought (D2) expanded in South Carolina in response to numerous rivers and streams dipping below the 15th percentile, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Additionally, the NASA Crop-CASMA soil moisture and vegetation index application is showing significant negative soil moisture anomalies-particularly in South Carolina’s coastal plains region.

      Areas of Abnormally Dry (D0) were introduced in Georgia, Florida, and Alabama.


      For the week, the region was mainly dry with average temperatures that were well above normal (6 to 15 deg F). Some light precipitation (1 to 2 inches) was observed in areas of central Louisiana, Mississippi, and western Tennessee.

      On the map, conditions degraded across much of the region including Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas where areas of Moderate Drought (D1) and Severe Drought (D2) expanded in response to persistent warm and dry conditions. In the western portions of Oklahoma and Texas, the NASA Crop-CASMA application is showing significant negative soil moisture anomalies this month.

      In the Rolling Plains of Texas, some drought-related impacts have been reported, including reports of winter wheat crops continuing to struggle due to the lack of moisture.


      On this week’s map, only minor changes were made on the map in Missouri where precipitation has been below normal during the past 90-day period. Light precipitation accumulations were observed this week in the greater Ohio River Basin (1 to 2 inches) as well as in the northern portions of the Midwest where locally heavy snowfall amounts were observed.

      According to NOAA NOHRSC, 67% of the Northern Great Lakes region was covered by snow with an average depth of 3.8 inches and a maximum depth of 19.5 inches on December 8. Average temperatures for the week were mainly above normal with the largest anomalies observed in the southern and western portions of the region, where temperatures were 6 to 12+ degrees above normal.

      High Plains

      On this week’s map, areas of the region—including the eastern plains of Colorado—saw widespread degradation in response to anomalously warm temperatures, short-term precipitation deficits, declining soil moisture levels, and elevated evaporative demand across the region. Moreover, impact reports from eastern Colorado are yielding concerns by producers about winter wheat stands as well as declining pasture and range conditions.

      According to the latest USDA Colorado Crop Progress report, the percentage of topsoil rated short to very short was 84%, while pasture and range conditions were rated 40% very poor to poor.

      For the week, most of the region was unseasonably warm and dry with average temperatures ranging from 2 to 12 degrees above normal with the greatest departures observed in eastern portions of Colorado and Wyoming, Kansas, and Nebraska. In eastern Colorado, average maximum temperatures for the week ranged from 60 to 70 degrees.


      In the West, the big story continues to be the poor snowpack conditions across the region and growing concern about water supplies after back-to-back dry winter seasons in California as well as in other basins including the Colorado River Basin.

      In California, the Department of Water Resources announced (December 1) that the State Water Project’s initial water allocation for 2022 will be at 0% in an unprecedented step to address the state’s water supply in anticipation of another dry winter season. Other impacts of concern across the region include the delayed opening of ski areas across the region which is impacting local economies in mountain communities across the West.

      However, some positive signs have emerged over the past week and looking ahead in the short-term with a change to a more active weather pattern for the region with heavy mountain snowfall expected in the Cascades, Sierra Nevada, Great Basin, and the Rockies.

      On the map this week, recent precipitation in the Pacific Northwest led to improvements in drought-affected areas of Washington as well as in northeastern Oregon, and west-central Idaho. Conversely, an area of Extreme Drought (D3) expanded in southwestern Montana due to poor snowpack conditions in the higher elevations.


      In the region, only minor changes were made on this week’s map including expansion of areas of Abnormally Dry (D0) in eastern Maryland, Delaware, and West Virginia in response to shorter-term dryness (past 30- to 90-day period) and declining streamflow levels.

      For the week, the region was generally dry with exception to snowfall in Upstate New York as well as in northern Maine. Average temperatures for the week were cooler than normal across northern parts of the region, including northern portions of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, where departures ranged from 2 to 6 degrees below normal.

      Elsewhere in the region, average temperatures were 2 to 8 degrees above normal. According to NOAA NCEI, the last 4-month and 6-month periods were the warmest on record for the Northeast Climate Region.

      Looking Ahead

      The NWS WPC 7-Day Quantitative Precipitation Forecast (QPF) calls for moderate-to-heavy precipitation accumulations ranging from 2 to 7 inches (liquid) in much of the Far West including the coastal ranges of California and Oregon as well as coastal areas of western Washington.

      Similar accumulations are forecasted in the Sierra Nevada Range and Cascades of Oregon and Washington. In the Great Basin and Intermountain West, accumulations of 1-to-3-inches (liquid) are expected across the Rockies with the heaviest accumulations forecasted for the mountain ranges of southwestern Utah and western Colorado.

      In the Central Plains and Upper Midwest, liquid accumulations of generally < 1 inch are expected. In the Eastern Tier, light-to-moderate accumulations of 1 to 2 inches are expected in northern portions of Alabama and Georgia and eastern Tennessee.

      In the Northeast, light precipitation accumulations of < 1 inch are expected, while much of the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast are forecasted to have generally dry conditions. The CPC 6-10-day Outlooks calls for a moderate-to-high probability of above-normal temperatures across most of the conterminous United States except for areas of the Great Basin and Far West where below normal to near-normal temperatures are expected.

      In terms of precipitation, there is a moderate-to-high probability of above-normal precipitation across most of the western U.S. as well as portions of the Midwest and eastern portions of the Southern Plains. The Eastern Tier of the U.S. is expected to be drier-than-normal.

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