Thursday, March 23, 2017

National Drought Mitigation Center

Drought and Climate for January 2017: Conditions continue to improve in U.S.

Access the latest monthly drought outlook from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.
 
The two maps above are from the High Plains Regional Climate Center.
 
Find these and other products related to the U.S. Drought Monitor on the USDM website.

By Brian Fuchs, NDMC Climatologist

Drought

Substantial improvements were made over most of the drought regions in January as an active storm pattern brought multiple events over the West and Southeast.  Drought improved from covering 22.53 percent of the contiguous United States at the beginning of the month to 14.55 percent at the end of the month.  Severe drought improved from 8.63 to 3.83 percent, extreme drought improved from 3.15 to 0.41 percent, and exceptional drought was eliminated.  This was the first time since March 2011 that there was no exceptional drought in the United States.  January ended with approximately 89 million people in drought compared to just over 119 million in drought at the beginning of the month.

Drought Outlook

The monthly drought outlook has drought persisting over most of the Plains and Midwest and developing further over the Gulf Coast of southern Texas and south Florida.  Improving conditions are anticipated over central California, New England, and the High Plains as well as in the Southeast.

Temperatures

There was quite a temperature contrast in January, with the eastern half of the contiguous United States above normal and the western half below normal.  The warmest areas were in the Southeast, where temperatures were generally 6-9 degrees above normal, and the coolest were over the Pacific Northwest, where temperatures were 9-12 degrees below normal.

Precipitation

January was very active for storms over the entire country, and almost all regions were normal to slightly above normal for total precipitation during the month.  The wettest areas were in California, where precipitation totals were 10-15 inches above normal in the northern portions of the state. In the Southeast, southern Alabama, western Georgia, and the Florida panhandle were 5-10 inches above normal.  The driest areas were in western Washington, where totals were 5-10 inches below normal.

 

Regional Overviews

Northeast

Temperatures were 3-6 degrees above normal throughout the region in January while most of the region was wetter than normal.  Drier than normal conditions were recorded in portions of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire, but departures were generally an inch or less below normal.  Drought continues to linger in this region where a mix of short- and long-term indicators are driving the drought depiction.  January started with 43.67 percent of the region in drought and ended with 34.82 percent in drought.  Severe drought improved from 11.68 to 7.88 percent of the region while extreme drought improved from 1.39 to 1.10 percent.

Southeast

The entire region recorded above-normal temperatures in January, with departures of 9-12 degrees above normal in Mississippi and Alabama.  Most of the region recorded above-normal precipitation for the month, with areas of southern Alabama, western and central Georgia, and the Florida panhandle receiving 6-8 inches above normal.  Drought continued to improve in the region; 20.71 percent of the area is now in drought, compared to 38.51 percent at the beginning of the month.  Severe drought and extreme drought improved from 21.05 to 9.25 percent and 8.85 to 1.15 percent, respectively.

Movers & Shakers for January 2017
State

Percent area Jan. 3, 2017

Percent area Jan. 31, 2017 Status Percentage point change
Biggest increases in drought
Arkansas 7.99 12.50 Severe 4.51
Biggest improvements in drought
Alabama 68.12 48.58 Moderate 19.54
48.58
23.88
Severe 24.70
23.32
 2.33 Extreme
20.99
Arizona 24.76 13.92
Moderate 10.84
3.65 0.61 Severe 3.04
Arkansas 39.03 30.46 Moderate 8.57

California

67.61 50.80 Moderate 16.81
54.02 20.30 Severe 33.72
38.17
1.87
Extreme
36.30
18.31
0
Exceptional 18.31
Connecticut 82.57
75.94 Severe 6.63
Florida 6.07 0 Moderate 6.07
Georgia 73.48 36.22 Moderate 37.26
39.33
19.58
Severe
19.75
19.28
3.57
Extreme
15.71
Illinois
6.50
1.63
Moderate
4.87
Kansas
30.71 26.02 Moderate 4.69
13.58
6.68
Severe
6.90
Louisiana
15.85
0
Moderate
15.85
Maine 62.91
38.02
Moderate
24.89
Massachusetts 69.13
37.11
Severe 32.02
8.59
3.75
Extreme 4.84
Mississippi 55.36
10.78
Moderate 44.58
9.04
0.46
Severe
8.58
Missouri 26.62
8.51
Moderate
18.11
Nebraska 13.43
9.48
Moderate 3.95
Nevada
33.64
5.93 Moderate
27.71
7.13 0 Severe
7.13
New Jersey
72.01 42.39 Moderate
29.62
37.85
9.47 Severe
28.38
New York 40.21
25.09
Moderate  15.12
North Carolina
26.90 12.43 Moderate
14.47
12.41
2.91 Severe
9.50
Oklahoma  83.21 79.46 Moderate 3.75
55.75
30.95 Severe
24.80
Pennsylvania 3.98
0.44 Severe
3.54
South Carolina
 30.28 21.88
Moderate
8.40
19.83
4.12 Severe
15.71
4.12
0 Extreme
4.12
South Dakota
6.00 0
Severe
6.00
Tennessee
37.78
16.70 Moderate
21.08
13.03 5.32 Severe
7.71
Utah
13.25 0
Moderate
13.25
Virginia
15.39
0.49 Moderate
14.90
Wyoming
15.58 9.34 Moderate 6.24

Midwest

All of the Midwest recorded above-normal temperatures in January. The eastern portions of the region were the warmest, with departures of 6-8 degrees above normal for the month.  Most of the Midwest also had above-normal precipitation; only areas of southern Missouri and western Illinois were below normal, with departures of up to 1.50 inches below normal.  Drought has been benign in the region, covering only 4.45 percent of the Midwest at the beginning of January and 1.37 percent at the end of the month.

High Plains

Temperatures were a combination of below and above normal for the region in January. Much of the northern Plains recorded below-normal temperatures with departures of 6-9 degrees below normal, while much of the eastern Dakotas, eastern Nebraska, and most of Kansas had temperatures that were 3-6 degrees above normal.  Almost all of the High Plains recorded normal to slightly above normal precipitation for January, with departures of up to 1.50 inches above normal common.  Drought conditions did improve in January, with 18.60 percent of the region in drought now compared to 21.54 percent at the beginning of the month.  Severe drought also improved from 3.85 to 1.23 percent of the region.

South

Above-normal temperatures dominated the South, with most areas above normal for the month and eastern portions of the region being 8-10 degrees above normal.  Almost the entire region was near normal to above normal for precipitation in January.  Areas of Louisiana and Mississippi were 4-6 inches above normal for the month.  Drought improved in the South as January ended with 17.70 percent of the region in drought compared to 27.69 percent at the start of the month.  Severe and extreme drought improved from 11.09 to 6.40 and 1.11 to 0.73 percent, respectively.

West

Outside of New Mexico, almost all of the West had below-normal temperatures in January, with portions of the Pacific Northwest recording temperatures 9-12 degrees below normal.  January was wet for most of the West, with almost all areas recording normal to above-normal precipitation.  Western Washington was dry with departures of 5-10 inches below normal while central California was wet with departures of 15-20 inches above normal.  With the wet month, drought conditions improved for the region.  January ended with 13.38 percent of the area in drought compared to 21.51 percent at the start of the year.  Severe drought improved from 8.53 to 2.83 percent, extreme drought improved from 5.11 to 0.25 percent, and exceptional drought improved from 2.44 to 0.00 percent.  The last amount of exceptional drought was eliminated in California as the impact of several years of drought was finally being eradicated.

 

 

 

 

January 2017 impact summary: California emerging from drought, but water conservation continues

The two charts above summarize information from the Drought Impact Reporter.

By Denise Gutzmer, NDMC Drought Impact Specialist

California enjoyed a series of storms in January that resulted in much of the northern part of the state breaking free of drought and Southern California also seeing some drought improvement, although heavy rainfall did cause mudslides, infrastructure damage, and loss of life.  Eastern Oregon and western Nevada also benefitted from winter storms, as did much of the Southeast up through the Northeast.  Despite drought improvement in much of the nation, 65 impacts were added to the Drought Impact Reporter in January, with California receiving 14 and Florida, Colorado, and Texas following with 8, 7, and 6, respectively. 

California sees bountiful January storms

January storms deposited more than 5.7 trillion gallons’ worth of water in the Sierra Nevada snowpack, restoring about one-third of the state’s snow-water deficit, according to scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, California.

Satellite and ground sensor data indicated that the past five years of drought deprived the Sierra Nevada of 17 trillion gallons of water in the form of snow.  Without the 17 trillion gallons of snowmelt, Californians instead relied heavily on groundwater to make up the difference. 

California snowpack reaches 173% of average, replenishing a third of state's 'snow-deficit', by Joseph Serna, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 2, 2017

California continues water conservation measures

The State Water Resources Control Board opted to keep the water restrictions until spring to see how the rest of winter plays out, in terms of precipitation, before making other changes to the restrictions.  In the days leading up to the decision, a coalition of lawmakers and water districts pressed for an end to the regulations and the drought emergency, arguing the public can see that a drought emergency no longer existed. 

California retains drought measures, despite wet weather, by Scott Smith, Associated Press, Feb. 8, 2017

Water allocations rising as snowpack deepens

As reservoirs continued filling, the California Department of Water Resources increased its State Water Project allocation from 45 to 60 percent for its 29 agricultural and urban water customers.  Storage at Oroville Dam in northern California was 80 percent of its 3.5 million acre-foot capacity.  The last time a full 100 percent allocation was offered was in 2006, and regulatory constraints make it unlikely that users will get a full allocation this year.

California boosts SWP allocation to 60 percent, by Todd Fitchette, Western Farm Press (New York), Jan. 19, 2017

Federal shortage declaration possible in 2018 for Lake Mead

Despite deepening snowpack in the Rockies and Sierra Nevada, the first 2017 official water forecast for the Colorado River foresaw a possible federal shortage declaration in 2018.  Lake Mead’s elevation may dip about 9 feet by the end of 2017, putting it inches below the 1,075 feet shortage mark, which would result in cuts in water deliveries to Nevada and Arizona.  If the Rocky Mountain snowpack becomes deep enough, it could avert the potential 2018 shortage.

Early snowpack indicates ‘coin flip’ for Lake Mead shortage declaration in 2018, by Henry Brean, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Jan. 20, 2017

As drought eases, what’s next for California’s water strategy?, by Ian James, The Desert Sun (Palm Springs, California), Jan. 20, 2017

 

 

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