Nearly 58% (slightly expanding from previous month) of the contiguous U.S. is experiencing drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, valid February 22, 2022. Long-term drought is entrenched across much of the western half of the lower 48 states, with drought extending into the Upper Midwest and Lower Mississippi Valley.
In addition, parts of the Southeast and interior New England are experiencing moderate and/or severe drought conditions.
Much of the West received above-normal precipitation during December. However, January and February have turned out to be much drier than normal for most areas, bringing most basins to below-normal seasonal snowpack by the end of February.
Above normal precipitation is favored across most of the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies in March and one class of drought improvement is most likely for parts of that region. Elsewhere, across the West, broad scale persistence or development are likely due to the dry initial conditions.
In the Great Plains, a combination of lack of snowpack (Northern High Plains), frozen ground (Northern Plains), and warmer and drier than normal conditions (Southern High Plains and Central Plains) make drought persistence/development the likeliest outcome by the end of March.
All range forecasts favor drought improvement across most of the Midwest, western Great Lakes, while drought persistence is likely across northern New England, due to lack of wet signals in the month and an inability for moisture to penetrate the topsoils by the end of the month, in addition to this being a climatologically dry time of year for most of these regions.
For parts of the Lower Mississippi Valley, predicted heavy precipitation during the next two weeks is likely to result in drought improvement. Below-normal precipitation and above-normal temperatures are expected for much of the Southeast during March, favoring drought persistence/development.
Forecast confidence is moderate to high for the Pacific Northwest and high elsewhere in the Western Region.
- In the months leading up to March, the West experienced a very wet December (record-breaking in some cases in the central Sierra Nevada Mountains) followed by a very dry January & February. Unfortunately, the dry start to the year offset the wet December for many areas across the West.
- This pattern is expected to become more La Niña-like, with near to above-normal precipitation and near to below normal temperatures favored across the Pacific Northwest eastward to Northern Rockies.
- Despite above normal precipitation being favored for much of the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies, improving drought conditions are likely to be limited to where snow water equivalent is at or above normal.
- Elsewhere across the Western Region, drought persistence is most likely, with the possibility of drought developing across parts of southern-central Arizona and southern New Mexico, where above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation are likely to continue to exacerbate conditions after the dry February.
Forecast confidence is high for the High Plains Region.
- Much of the Northern High Plains and Central Plains remain snow-free. This has resulted in a slow degradation of conditions in parts of the Northern High Plains and Central Plains since the beginning of February.
- With the lack of strong above-normal precipitation signals across much of the regions in March and since it is a relatively dry time of year, drought persistence is likely.
- Farther northward and eastward across the Dakotas, where average February temperatures were below freezing, no additional development is likely to occur due to frozen soils, which are likely to remain frozen into March.
Forecast confidence is moderate to high for the Midwest Region.
- The mature La Niña during March favors above-normal precipitation across much of the Midwest and Great Lakes and snowpack is likely to continue to accumulate across the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes. Much of the Midwest is expected to receive above-normal precipitation through March.
- Given the recent wetness especially across the upper Mississippi Valley, increased confidence in the extended-range forecasts and favorable time of year for soil moisture recharge, drought improvement/removal is likely for most of the Midwest.
Forecast confidence is low to moderate for the Southern Region.
- Much of the Southern Region west of the Mississippi River has experienced abnormally dry conditions in the months leading up to the start of March.
- Texas recorded its warmest Winter month on record during December (average temperature of 59°F), beating the previous Winter month record of 58.4°, set in February 2017.
- Despite below-normal temperatures observed on average for the months of January and February throughout the Southern Region, precipitation continued to lack for much of the region, which has exacerbated ongoing drought conditions and led to expansion of drought eastward along the central Gulf Coast.
- However, a series of low pressure systems are expected to bring above-normal precipitation over parts of drought-stricken areas of the Lower Mississippi Valley during the first half of March.
- Given the likely wet start to the first half of March, with equal chances to above-normal precipitation favored in the precipitation outlooks through the end of March, drought improvement is expected. Drought removal is likely in the same areas experiencing moderate (D1) drought.
- Elsewhere, drought persistence/development is likely with above-normal temperatures and near to below-normal precipitation.
Forecast confidence is moderate to high for the Southeast Region.
- In the Southeast Region, much of the region has experienced below-normal precipitation and above-normal temperatures in February, leading to anomalous dryness (D0 and D1) development in most of the coastal areas.
- Near term forecasts indicate above-normal temperatures and lack of wet signals for most of the region. Beyond week 2, above-normal temperatures are favored for the entire month, with dry signals indicated along the coastal areas of the Southeast.
- In addition, coastal portions of the Southeast are climatologically entering into a drier time of year during March and also favorable time for soil moisture discharge.
- The drier climatology coupled with the warm, dry La Niña signal indicate conditions in coastal areas, extending into the Florida Peninsula, are likely to deteriorate. Therefore, drought persistence is likely across coastal portions of Alabama, Georgia, the Florida Peninsula and Carolinas, with additional drought development likely along abnormal dryness areas (D0) of the Southeast through the end of March.
Forecast confidence is moderate for the Northeast Region.
- Since the start of 2022, temperatures have averaged below freezing across much of New England. Despite a build up of a decent seasonal snowpack by the end of February 2022, below-normal snowpack was observed over most of the region due to rainfall deficit in previous months in most of the region.
- Despite the monthly precipitation outlooks favoring equal chances for above, below, or near-normal precipitation, above-normal temperatures are favored across the Northeast region.
- With sub-freezing temperatures and antecedent snowpack to start the period, soils are likely not to have the opportunity to absorb very much snowmelt through the month. Additionally, the region is trending into its climatologically favorable time of year for soil moisture discharge.
- Therefore, drought persistence is likely by the end of March for areas currently experiencing moderate (D1) and severe (D2) drought in northern New England.
Forecast confidence is high for Alaska, moderate to high for Hawaii, and moderate for Puerto Rico.
- Despite a drier than normal trend along portions of the southern coast of Alaska from Fall 2021 to the end of the year, above-normal precipitation was observed from the beginning of 2022, offsetting the short-term dryness.
- The CPC extended range outlooks favor above-normal precipitation across the state. Monthly outlooks favor near to above-normal precipitation over western and central Mainland Alaska and below-normal precipitation over southeast Alaska. There are increased probabilities of near to below-normal temperatures in monthly outlooks.
- Given the time of year in this region, Alaska is likely to remain drought-free.
- Hawaii is currently experiencing moderate (D1) drought across much of the islands and severe (D2) drought in portions of Maui due to rainfall deficit in previous months. Monthly outlooks favor above-normal precipitation throughout March, in addition being a climatologically wettern time of year. Therefore, drought removal/improvement is likely for Hawaii.
- In Puerto Rico, above-normal rainfall signals are favored during March, leading to an increased likelihood for drought removal from the island.