Drought Monitor Weekly: Heavy Rains Bring Widespread Improvement, West Remains Dry

    ©Debra L Ferguson Stock Images


    April began with heavy rains in parts of the Midwest, South, and Southeast leading to large areas of drought improvement in these regions. Meanwhile, drought expanded and intensified in the West with many locations setting records for the driest prior 3-month period (January to March). The High Plains remained largely unchanged this week with small pockets of improvements and degradations.


    Once again, the southeast saw a mix of improvements and worsening short-term drought conditions. Rainfall totals of 2 inches or more helped ease abnormally dry and/or moderate drought in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Precipitation indicators and stream flow measurements show improvements and support the analysis.

    Increases in drought extent and severity include the expansion of abnormally dry conditions across northern Virginia and the introduction of moderate drought in North Carolina. Indicators supporting drought expansion in the southeast primarily include short-term precipitation deficits, declining soil moisture and below-normal stream flow.


    Like last week, the South saw drought worsen across west and south Texas and the Oklahoma Panhandle. Above-normal temperatures combined with below-normal precipitation and high winds exacerbated conditions. Drought indicators supporting the degradations include increasing precipitation deficits, dry surface and root zone soil moisture and low stream flow.

    One-category improvements were made to drought conditions across east Texas, southern Arkansas, north and central Louisiana and Mississippi as the effects of the recent wet pattern propagated through indicators such as streamflow, soil moisture, and vegetation. Note that the heavy, solid black line separating the part of the region experience short-term drought was modified to reflect the effects of the recent rain.


    Another week of above-normal precipitation combined with below temperatures led to more improvements across the Midwest this week. Large areas of 1-category improvements took place across the Upper Midwest where rain and snow totals of 150% to more than 300% of normal fell over the last 30 days. Short-term deficits have been erased with long-term drought remaining in areas where precipitation deficits of 6 months or longer exist and where deeper soil moisture and groundwater indicators are slower to recover.

    High Plains

    South-central Colorado saw a reduction in severe (D2) and extreme (D3) drought. Last week’s precipitation continued a trend of wetter-than-normal conditions that’s been in place since the start of the year. Short- and long-term indicators including precipitation, snowpack, soil moisture, and stream flow are responding to the excess moisture. Severe drought also decreased in southwest Wyoming for similar reasons.

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    Kansas saw drought worsen in the west and improve in the east. D3 expanded in southwest Kansas, where precipitation deficits are less than 10 percent of normal over the last 60 to 90 days. Other indicators supporting this assessment include increased evaporative demand and soil moisture. In eastern Kansas, the map depicts a continuation of improvements made last week.

    In south-central Nebraska, moderate drought expanded in response to increasing precipitation deficits, dry soil moisture indicators, and reports of low stock ponds. The rest of the region remained unchanged this week. State drought monitoring teams have all noted the increasing dryness across the region.


    Parts of the Northwest saw a healthy dose of precipitation and mountain snow during the past week. In most cases, this precipitation fell over areas free from drought or simply wasn’t enough to bring relief to drought impacted areas. Only southwest Oregon saw improvement with a small decline in moderate drought (D1). Oregon also saw an expansion of drought of severe (D2) and extreme (D3) drought.

    Water-year-to-date (October 1 to April 5) precipitation fell short and warmer-than-normal temperatures caused rapid and early melt out to the state’s snowpack. Soil moisture and shallow groundwater indicators are reflecting the worsening conditions. In the southeast part of the state, the drought monitoring team noted impacts including extremely dry soil conditions, a lack of surface water, and poor pasture forage conditions.

    Central Washington, Idaho, and northwest Montana also saw increases in drought extent or severity as short-term dryness continues to build upon long-term moisture deficits extending back to last year. Many parts of southern Idaho, and the rest of the West, have set records for the driest 3-month period (January to March) going back 100 years or more. Meanwhile near record warmth increased evaporative demand from plants and soils.

    Farther south, extreme drought (D3) expanded in parts of California, Nevada, and New Mexico while moderate (D1) and severe (D2) drought expanded across Arizona. In California, Cooperative Extension reports impacts to agriculture including reduced forage, livestock stress, decreased water allocation, and the selling livestock earlier than normal. Data such as reduced stream flows and declines in satellite-based vegetation health and soil moisture indicators confirm these reports.


    Near-normal precipitation this week had little effect on the long-term drought in New England. Drought remains in areas where precipitation deficits are firmly in place and where recovery lags in deeper soil layers, shallow groundwater, and well data. Abnormal dryness expanded over the Mid-Atlantic short-term where precipitation deficits, stream flow measurements and soil moisture conditions have fallen below normal.

    Looking Ahead

    The National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center (valid April 7 – April 9) calls for another storm system to move across the eastern half of the Lower 48. Multi-day snow is expected over the long-term drought areas in the Upper Midwest. Drought areas in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic are expected to see rain. Meanwhile, dry weather is expected across much of the drought-stricken Plains and West. An approaching front moving into the Pacific Northwest and Northern Rockies will bring rain and snow.

    Moving into the weekend, the forecast (valid April 9 – 13) calls for rain and high elevation snow and well below normal temperatures across the West. The colder temperatures, rain, and snow will reach into the northern and central Plains by early next week. At 8 – 14 days, the Climate Prediction Center Outlook (valid April 14 – 20) calls for below normal temperatures over much of the western and central U.S. and Alaska.

    Above normal temperatures are predicted over the east and west coasts. Near to above normal precipitation is favored for the Central Rockies eastward. Below normal precipitation is favored over California, Nevada, southeastern New Mexico, and southwestern Texas.

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