Drought Monitor Weekly: Mostly Dry with Some Notable Exceptions

    Farmhouse at sunset. Photo: Laura McKenzie, Texas AgriLife Extension


    With a few notable exceptions, the past week was mostly dry in the contiguous U.S. Heavy rain fell in southeast Texas this week, where large parts of ongoing drought or abnormal dryness saw improvement or full removal. Widespread precipitation of over a half inch fell in the Pacific Northwest, though this was primarily in areas not experiencing drought or was not enough to result in improvements to drought conditions.

    Heavy snow fell in a localized band across parts of western Kansas and eastern Colorado, totaling 27 inches at Mt. Sunflower, Kansas. Snow also fell in the Denver area. These snow events allowed for improvement to ongoing severe and extreme drought.

    A powerful Nor’easter dropped heavy snow from eastern Virginia northeast into southern and eastern New England, though most of this snow fell in areas without drought.

    Mostly dry weather continued in Puerto Rico, where moderate drought expanded and severe drought was introduced. After heavy snow in December helped to build up high elevation snowpack in the West, particularly in California, very dry weather took over in January across much of the region, halting improvements to drought conditions and raising concerns about lagging snowpack if the drier weather continues as forecast.

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    Finally, it should be noted that the large-scale winter storm affecting the central and southern Great Plains, Midwest, and parts of the eastern U.S. from the afternoon of February 1 through February 4 will not be accounted for until next week’s map.


    With the exception of Florida, mostly dry weather enveloped the Southeast this week. Ongoing short-term moderate drought continued in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, southwest Alabama, and the western Florida Panhandle.

    Along the borders of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee, short-term abnormal dryness expanded slightly, where short-term precipitation deficits mounted along with decreasing streamflow and soil moisture. No other changes were made to the Drought Monitor depiction in the Southeast this week.


    Widespread heavy rain fell this week in southeast Texas, leading to improvements in ongoing moderate drought and abnormal dryness there. Otherwise, the week was mostly dry across the region.

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    Extreme drought developed in parts of northern Louisiana and southern Arkansas and northeast Texas, and some ongoing extreme drought areas expanded in this region as well. There, short-term precipitation deficits worsened, and soil moisture and streamflow decreased.

    Severe drought expanded in south-central Texas and north of Lubbock, while extreme drought north of Lubbock shrank in coverage due to lessened precipitation deficits there. Widespread extreme drought is ongoing across much of northwest Texas and western Oklahoma, with a narrow strip of exceptional drought present in the western Oklahoma Panhandle and northeast New Mexico.

    Burn bans remain in effect in parts of the Southern Plains, where the winter wheat crop is also struggling.


    Mostly dry weather occurred in the Midwest region this week. Short-term moderate drought expanded into southwest Missouri this week, where short-term precipitation deficits grew. Moderate drought expanded across southern Wisconsin, where soil moisture and precipitation deficits grew. Precipitation was sufficient to improve the Northwest Angle in Minnesota from severe to moderate drought.

    High Plains

    This week, a narrow band of heavy snow fell in eastern Colorado and western Kansas, leading to small improvements in severe and extreme drought in these areas. Extreme drought also improved in the Denver area due to snowfall this week. Due to improved precipitation deficits, improved snowpack, and improved soil moisture conditions, moderate and severe drought were improved in southeast and west-central Wyoming.

    Increasing short-term precipitation deficits, along with unusually warm and windy weather, led to an expansion of severe drought in northwest South Dakota. Short-term precipitation deficits are also starting to build across southwest North Dakota. In northwest North Dakota, increased snowpack allowed for a reduction in moderate, severe, and extreme drought.

    Conditions continued to dry in the short-term in central and eastern Nebraska, where moderate drought increased in coverage and abnormal dryness grew slightly near and north of Lincoln.


    Weather across the West region was mostly dry this week. A small area of precipitation along the Idaho/Montana border improved conditions enough for a small reduction in abnormal dryness there. Exceptional drought was introduced in and around Roswell, New Mexico this week, due to significant short-term precipitation deficits and warm and windy conditions that have resulted in the loss of topsoil.

    After a very dry January, high elevation snowpack in parts of the West has begun to drift away from the above-normal values from the start of the new year.


    A powerful Nor’easter developed this week and moved northeast off the Atlantic Coast, depositing heavy snowfall from eastern Virginia northeast into parts of southern and eastern New England. The highest snow totals reported in Rhode Island, New York (on Long Island), and Massachusetts each exceeded two feet.

    In parts of northern New England that missed out on the snow, short-term dryness continued to develop on top of long-term abnormal dryness and drought, leading to an increase in the coverage of abnormal dryness. Abnormal dryness coverage in southern New York also increased in areas that missed out on significant precipitation with the weekend Nor’easter.

    Looking Ahead

    At the time of writing (the afternoon of Wednesday, February 2), a large-scale winter storm was causing snow and ice accumulation across much of the southern Great Plains and lower Midwest.

    Precipitation, both wintry and plain rain, was forecast by the National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center to continue eastward and northeastward through the middle of the weekend, with some heavier precipitation amounts possible, particularly from Alabama northeast to southern Ohio.

    On Sunday and Monday (February 6-7), mostly dry weather was in the forecast across the contiguous U.S., though some precipitation was expected along the southeastern coast.

    For the period from February 8-12, the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center forecast strongly favored drier than normal weather across much of the West region. Drier weather was also favored from the central and southern Great Plains east to the Atlantic Coast. Wetter than normal weather was favored in south Texas, the northern Great Plains, and northwest Great Lakes.

    Above-normal precipitation was also favored for this period in most of Alaska. Warmer than normal temperatures were strongly favored along the Pacific Coast, and in the central and northern Great Plains and Upper Midwest.

    From New Mexico eastward, colder than normal temperatures were favored across the far southern U.S. Colder than normal temperatures were favored in western Alaska, while southeastern Alaska was more likely to see above normal temperatures.

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