Wednesday, August 27, 2014

National Drought Mitigation Center

June 2013 Drought and Impact Summary

Climate

by Brian Fuchs, NDMC Climatologist

  The U.S. Drought Monitor for June 4, 2013, showed 44.11 percent of the 48 contiguous states in moderate drought or worse. 

The Departure from Normal Precipitation map from the High Plains Regional Climate Center compares how much rain we got in June with the historic record.
 
These maps from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center show changes to the U.S. Drought Monitor from June 4 through July 2 and for the past eight months. The legend is below.

 
  The June 25 U.S. Drought Monitor map showed relatively little change from the June 4 map.
 
This chart shows the proportion of the state of Hawaii in each category of drought on the U.S. Drought Monitor since 2000.
 
The June 20 Seasonal Drought Outlook from the Climate Prediction Center shows drought intensifying in most areas of the West.
  The Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for July shows above-normal risk in parts of the western United States and below-normal risk in the East.

Summary

Most of the East Coast and the Midwest recorded above-normal precipitation for June, but drought-stricken areas of the central Plains and West did not, and heat compounded dryness in the Southwest. In Florida, several areas recorded more than 10 inches of rain for June, while many locations further north received rain in the 8-to-10-inch range. For most of the Plains and Midwest, 2 to 4 inches of rain was commonplace. But areas from the central Plains westward generally had less than 75 percent of normal precipitation for June, with some areas in the Southwest at less than 5 percent of normal. The southwestern United States was also very warm, with temperatures for the month 4 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. For those drought areas on the Plains that saw below-normal precipitation, cooler temperatures helped to prevent drought from intensifying during the month. Most locations in the High Plains and Upper Midwest were about 2 degrees Fahrenheit below normal for June.

June began with 44.11 percent of the contiguous United States in moderate drought or worse (D1 on the U.S. Drought Monitor) and ended with 43.84 percent in drought, for very little net change during the month. This time last year, more than 51 percent of the contiguous United States was in drought, as the widespread drought of 2012 was just starting. Even though the past month brought an overall reduction in the area in moderate drought or worse, drought intensified. The area in severe drought (D2) increased from 28.49 percent to 32.04 percent during the month and the area in extreme drought (D3) increased from 11.44 percent to 13.14 percent. Much of the degradation was in the western United States.

Midwest

Below-normal temperatures and above-normal precipitation in most areas continued to relieve drought in the Midwest. Areas of Minnesota and Wisconsin recorded 8 inches of rain for the month, while areas of southern Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio recorded more than 5 inches of rain. June started with only 3.45 percent of the region in drought, which was confined to areas of long-term drought in northern Minnesota, and by the end of the month, the area in drought had declined to less than 1 percent. Last year at the end of June, 45.76 percent of the region was in drought and more than 5 percent was in extreme drought. The Midwest has followed a remarkable course of improvements over the last 12 months, as the precipitation deficits of the 2012 drought have been erased in the region.

High Plains

Even with rain during the month, most areas ended June with below-normal precipitation, with the exception of parts of the eastern Dakotas. With a very wet May on record and with most of the region having temperatures that were at or below normal, conditions did not change too much, with a few exceptions. June ended with 66.65 percent of the region in drought, compared to 69.02 percent at the beginning of the month. But the amount of extreme and exceptional drought increased from 19.48 percent to 22.97 percent, as areas of Colorado and western Kansas got worse. There is a strong gradient from east to west between areas that have observed significant drought improvement and those that have not. There is a great deal of vulnerability in the region and without regular precipitation, drought intensification is likely.

South

The area of the South in drought declined from 51.68 percent to 48.03 percent in June. The intensity level generally improved as well. Texas saw exceptional drought (D4) decline by more than 5 percent, from 16.47 to 11.27 percent, and Oklahoma also had a decline in exceptional drought, from 11.34 to 8.69 percent. Both Oklahoma and Texas have seen drought improve or be eliminated in the east, while other areas of both states received below-normal precipitation. Last year at this time, there was no exceptional drought in Oklahoma or Texas and very little extreme drought. As we move towards the heat of the summer, if areas continue to receive below-normal precipitation, continued improvements will be unlikely and degradation and intensification will be more likely.

West

After consecutive years of below-normal snowpack, drought has spread westward and is encompassing a large portion of the western United States. Other than areas of Montana and Idaho that recorded more than 5 inches of rain in June, and northern California, where up to 2 inches of rain fell, the region has been dry. Most areas of central to southern California, Arizona, Utah, western New Mexico, western Colorado, western Wyoming and southern Idaho recorded little or no precipitation for the month. At the same time, temperatures have been 2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit above normal and a significant heat wave with temperatures approaching 120 degrees Fahrenheit ended the month. The heat and dryness intensified drought in the region. June ended with 76.67 percent of the region in drought, compared to 72.90 percent at the beginning of the month. The proportion of the West in severe drought took a large jump  from 46.70 to 56.71 percent, and the area in extreme drought also increased from 14.65 percent to 19.66 percent.

Alaska also saw an increase in drought during June due to significant heat in the region. Currently, 8.86 percent of the state is in drought, compared to 1.80 percent at the beginning of June.

The ongoing drought in Hawaii worsened in June. Overall, 33.65 percent of Hawaii is in drought now, compared to 32.68 percent at the start of June. Extreme drought also increased from 0.65 to 2.00 percent.

Outlook

The outlook from the Climate Prediction Center continues to show the western United States with a strong signal for above-normal temperatures in July. It is also anticipated that the monsoon rains will kick in during July, bringing a good chance for above-normal precipitation in Arizona and New Mexico as well as portions of west Texas, southern Colorado and Utah. With the seasonal drought outlook showing a good potential for improvements in Arizona, southern Nevada, western New Mexico and southern Utah, July could be a critical month for drought in these regions. The seasonal drought outlook also shows most of the rest of the western United States persisting in drought, with some areas seeing further development. The drought gradient from the Plains states to the western states will continue to be steep as some potential for improvement exists from central South Dakota and central Nebraska into central Kansas, Oklahoma and east Texas.  

 

This map shows the distribution of impacts in the Drought Impact Reporter for June, 2013.

 

This is a June 28 screenshot from the Active Fire Mapping Program, an operational, satellite-based fire detection and monitoring program managed by the USDA Forest Service Remote Sensing Applications Center (RSAC) in Salt Lake City.

 

This chart color codes impacts by category for the eight states with the most impacts recorded in the Drought Impact Reporter for June 2013.

 

This chart shows the proportion of impacts by category entered for June 2013 in the Drought Impact Reporter.

  The chart at left shows the proportion of reports in each category entered in the Drought Impact Reporter for June 2013.

Impacts: Wildfires raging, water supplies waning in June

by Denise Gutzmer, NDMC Drought Impact Specialist

Wildfire

June was a month of wildfires and declining water supplies in the western United States. Wildfires charred many acres and numerous homes and forced evacuations as drought, dry vegetation and strong winds encouraged explosive wildfire growth and behavior. In central Arizona, 19 firefighters lost their lives in the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30. The wind-driven fire began from a lightning strike on June 28 and consumed roughly 13 square miles and dozens of homes, and forced the evacuation of the town of Yarnell. The blaze grew explosively from 200 to 2,000 acres in a matter of hours on June 30. Of the 19 firefighters, 18 were from an elite group from Prescott, Arizona.[1] In New Mexico, more than 192 square miles burned from late May through late June. [2] As of July 9, the Silver Fire, burning in the Gila National Forest in southwestern New Mexico, had consumed 138,546 acres, or 216 square miles, since it began from a lightning strike on June 7. [3] In Colorado, many wildfires charred the parched state, with the Black Forest Fire scorching 14,280 acres, or 22.3 square miles, destroying 502 homes and taking two lives. [4] On June 28, at least 16 large wildfires were burning in Alaska. [5] California fire officials warned that the wildfire season there could be one of the most volatile in a century. By June 16, 50 percent more fires had burned four times the area as at the same time last year. [6]

New Mexico

New Mexico, where more than 44 percent of the state was in exceptional drought throughout June, had 39 impacts in the Drought Impact Reporter for the month, with most of the impacts related to wildfires and restrictions on outdoor burning and the use of fireworks. The past three years of drought have thoroughly dried out vegetation, increased the fire danger, limited grazing for livestock and stressed wildlife. Wildfires raging in New Mexico have charred acres of remaining grazing land, forcing ranchers to move cattle out of state. As the governor recommended, many communities banned some or all fireworks because the fire danger was too great.  Fortunately for the Southwest, the monsoon has begun, bringing some relief to the region.

New Mexico Water for Drinking, Irrigation, Wildlife

Water supplies remain low in many parts of New Mexico, with Santa Fe’s reservoirs at about one-third of capacity. [7] Meanwhile, water deliveries for irrigation were miniscule or ended early. Stretches of the Rio Grande River are dry, prompting officials to plan water releases from federal reservoirs to protect the endangered silvery minnow, but water must be used judiciously because supplies are limited. [8]

Water Supply and Quality

Many communities and irrigation districts in the western U.S. were low on water as thin snowpack and drought limited supplies. The communities of Barnhart, Texas, and Magdalena, New Mexico, ran out of water as levels fell below pump intakes in the towns’ wells. Lehi, Utah, was in a water emergency and expected to run out of water. [9] Water deliveries ended early or were reduced for several water districts in New Mexico, Texas, Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada, Utah, and Nebraska. Nitrate levels continue to be high in Iowa, making the water costly to treat for municipal use, as unused fertilizer from 2012, a drought year, washed into rivers. [10]

Agriculture

The combination of drought and late spring freezes killed the winter wheat crop in parts of the Midwest. Through June 8, the Risk Management Agency office in Topeka, Kansas, had received indemnity claims for $33.5 million since the start of 2013, with more than $31 million in claims for the damaged Kansas wheat crop. Twenty percent of the wheat acreage in Colorado was a total loss in early June, stated the executive director of the Colorado Association of Wheat Growers. Wheat in parts of the Texas Panhandle and the Dakotas was also in very poor shape. [11]

Society and Public Health

Dust storms continue to blast the Southwest. In Nevada, a “near-apocalyptic” sandstorm developed on Interstate 80 near Winnemucca on June 10, creating whiteout conditions when strong winds stirred up dust from recently cleared fields. Twenty-seven vehicles collided, resulting in one death and injuries to at least 26 people and closing the interstate in both directions. [12]

Iowa reported 31 cases of West Nile virus in 2012, three times higher than in an average year. An epidemiologist with the Iowa Department of Public Health attributed the uptick in West Nile cases to drought, which is favorable to the mosquito species that carries the virus. Other areas seeing more cases of West Nile virus included Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Doña Ana County, New Mexico. [13]

Wildlife

Wildlife in New Mexico is suffering from reduced food and water supplies brought on by years of drought. To help wildlife, two state agencies and a nonprofit organization were working together to bring water to New Mexico’s thirsty wildlife by assisting ranchers with the added costs of pumping and transporting water. [14] In Arizona, the Arizona Elk Society has been transporting water to wildlife in the Flagstaff area and repairing facilities to make sure that wildlife get the water they need during the hot, dry summer. [15]

For additional detail on these and other drought impacts, please refer to the Drought Impact Reporter, http://droughtreporter.unl.edu.

Citations

1 Marshall, John and Jacques Billeaud. “19 firefighters die in Ariz. Blaze,” July 1, 2013, Associated Press, in the Albuquerque Journal. 

2  Bryan, Susan Montoya. “Growing Fire Makes Matters Worse for NM Ranchers,” June 25, 2013, Associated Press, in the Houston Chronicle.

3 InciWeb, “Silver Fire,” accessed July 9, 2013. 

4 InciWeb, “Black Forest Fire,” accessed on July 9, 2013.

5 Active Fire Mapping Program, accessed June 28, 2013.

6 Asbury, John. “WILDFIRES: Conditions ripe for volatile season, officials predict,” June 19, 2013, Press-Enterprise, Riverside, California. 

7 Quintana, Chris, and David Salazar. “Reservoir levels concern city water managers,” June 27, 2013, Santa Fe New Mexican.

8 KOAT. “Rio Grande bone dry because of drought,” June 27, 2013, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

9 ABC 4 Utah. “Water Crisis Rocks Lehi,” June 20, 2013. 

10 The Des Moines Register.  “Nitrate spike tests Des Moines water supplies,” June 30, 2013, Des Moines Register.  

11 Associated Press. “In Kansas, drought, freeze paralyze wheat crop,” June 8, 2013, Kansas City Star.

12 Associated Press. “1 person killed in apocalyptic Nevada standstorm pileup,” June 11, 2013, USA Today. 

13 Jackson, Sharyn. “Iowa’s mosquitoes itching to attack,” June 21, 2013, Des Moines Register.

14 KOB.com staff. “NM agencies team up to give water to wildlife during drought,” June 19, 2013. 

15 Wilson, Jean. “Making water available for wildlife,” June 19, 2013, Yuma (Arizona) Sun.

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