Thursday, April 26, 2018

National Drought Mitigation Center

Drought and Climate for May 2017: Conditions deteriorate in southern Florida, parts of Plains

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 Deborah Bathke, NDMC Climatologist


Warm, dry weather dominated the northern Plains, southern Florida, and parts of the southern Plains in May, leading to a deterioration in drought conditions throughout these regions.  Wet weather across much of the eastern United States improved drought conditions across the Northeast, Mid Atlantic, and Southeast.  At month’s end, drought areas were limited to the central Dakotas, the Southeast, parts of the Southwest, isolated areas of Texas, and the Big Island in Hawaii.  The percentage of the country experiencing drought (D1-D4) increased slightly, from 4.98 percent of the contiguous United States on May 2 to 5.28 percent on May 30. Moderate drought (D2) improved from 1.3 to 1.12 percent and severe drought (D3) increased slightly from 0.13 to 0.28 percent.  Exceptional drought was not present.  Drought decreased slightly in Hawaii (from 25.69 to 25.37 percent) while Alaska and Puerto Rico remained drought free.

Drought Outlook

Forecast weather conditions for the first half of June favor continued dry weather in the northern Plains and wet weather across the South and Southeast.  Accordingly, the Climate Prediction Center’s June drought outlook calls for an expansion of the drought area centered on the central Dakotas and improvements to drought areas in the Southeast and most of Texas.  Persistence is expected across the Southwest and on Hawaii’s Big Island as the climatologically dry season continues for these regions.


May brought above-average temperatures to the West Coast, Great Basin, northern Rockies, and coastal Southeast.  Below-average temperatures were recorded in parts of the Great Plains, Midwest, and Northeast.  According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, no state set records for either the warmest or coldest May on record.


Above-average precipitation fell across much of the East as well as in parts of the Rockies and the Great Plains.  While no state set records for the wettest May, Louisiana, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, and New Hampshire all fell within the top 10.  Below-average precipitation was observed in the West, the northern Plains and Rockies, southern Florida, and the southern Plains.


Regional Overviews


May average temperatures ranged from 3 degrees below average to 2 degrees above average.  In general, the coolest locations occurred from Maryland northward to southern Maine, while the warmest locations were in West Virginia and western Pennsylvania. Nearly the entire region saw above-average precipitation.  The wettest areas in New York, New Hampshire, coastal Maryland, and New Jersey saw 200 percent of their average monthly totals. The abundant rainfall eliminated any remaining drought areas in the region.


Temperatures in the Southeast ranged from more than 3 degrees below average in parts of Alabama and Georgia to more than 3 degrees above average in the Florida Peninsula, northern Georgia, and the Carolinas. With the exception of Florida and northwest Alabama, the region generally saw 110 to 300 percent of their average monthly accumulation.  Drought-afflicted areas of northern Georgia and South Carolina experienced monthly rainfall totals that ranked within the top 10 wettest Mays on record, reducing and/or eliminating drought in these areas.  The only broad increases in drought severity in the Southeast occurred in Florida.   For the Southeast as a whole, drought decreased from 34.35 to 21.32 percent.  Severe drought decreased from 12.97 to 11.11 percent and extreme drought increased from 1.32 to 2.96 percent.  The region remained free from exceptional drought during May.

Movers & Shakers for May 2017

Percent area May 2, 2017

Percent area May 30, 2017 Status Percentage point change
Biggest increases in drought
Arizona 13.51 27.83 Moderate 14.32
Florida 66.00 71.66 Moderate 5.66
5.53 15.01 Extreme 9.48
North Dakota 0 24.11 Moderate 24.11
New Mexico 0 6.56 Moderate 6.56
South Dakota 0 20.42 Moderate 20.42
Biggest improvements in drought
Alabama 32.03 0.33 Moderate 31.70
Colorado 3.57 0 Moderate 3.57
Connecticut 24.06 0 Moderate 24.06
Georgia 56.83 33.29 Moderate 23.54
24.06 17.49 Severe 6.57
Hawaii 9.55 0 Severe 9.55
Louisiana 6.33 0 Moderate 6.33
Maryland 13.07 0 Moderate 13.07
Oklahoma 4.26 0 Moderate 4.26
Pennsylvania 7.64 0 Moderate 7.64
South Carolina 15.80 3.11 Moderate 12.69
Virginia 15.88 0 Moderate 15.88


Most of the South was cooler than average during May.  Temperatures of 3 degrees below average were experienced in Louisiana, parts of Texas, and the Oklahoma panhandle.  A few locations, such as South Texas and Tennessee, saw temperatures as high as 3 degrees above average.  Rainfall showed more variability.  Parts of north central Texas and southern Oklahoma saw departures of rainfall that were more than 3 inches below average while southern locations in Louisiana and Mississippi observed more than 6 inches of rainfall above average May values. The wet weather alleviated drought in Louisiana, east Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.  At month’s end, just 2.30 percent of the region was in moderate drought compared to 2.43 percent on May 2.


May temperatures ranged from 3 to 4 degrees below average in the northern part of the region to 3 degrees above average in the south.  Rainfall left a mix of wet and dry areas across the region with departures ranging from less than 50 percent of average in northern Minnesota and Michigan’s lower peninsula to more than 200 percent of average in parts of Wisconsin, southern Missouri, and northwestern Ohio.  Despite the lack of precipitation in some areas, the region remained drought free, although abnormally dry conditions (D0) began to develop across northern Minnesota during the latter half of the month.


Temperatures in the West were generally near to above average in the Northwest, northern California, and Nevada and near to below average in southern California, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico.  Departures ranged from 4 degrees below to 4 degrees above average. The region was generally drier than average with the exception of parts of the Pacific Northwest, southern California, northern Arizona, northeastern New Mexico, and Colorado.   Departures ranged from more than 3 inches above average in parts of Colorado to more than 3 inches below average in northern California.  At the end of May, drought was confined to the extreme southwestern part of the region, encompassing 4.46 percent of the area, up from 2.72 percent at the beginning of the month.  Severe drought remained steady at 0.16 percent.

Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico

Alaska continued to remain drought free, though 33.01 percent of the state was experiencing abnormally dry conditions.  In Hawaii, severe drought was eliminated from the Big Island, leaving only moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions on the island.  Puerto Rico remained free from drought and abnormally dry conditions.


May 2017 impact summary: Drought in northern Plains affecting crops, forage

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

By Denise Gutzmer, NDMC Drought Impact Specialist

Drought was not a concern for most of the United States in May as rainfall eased dryness in parts of the East, but it persisted in Florida and developed very rapidly in the northern Plains.  Wheat was suffering in parts of the Dakotas, and poor forage drove some producers to sell cattle.  Parts of Florida experienced above-normal fire activity and continued to monitor and restrict water use.  Unfortunately, Florida’s rainy season brought too much rain too quickly in some areas, causing flooding. 

Intense drought develops in Dakotas, Montana

The dry month of May caused the quick development of drought in the Dakotas and eastern Montana.  Many ranchers were selling cattle because forage growth was limited by the dry conditions that were also damaging crops.  Unusually high water demand was reported in Mandan, while across the river, Bismarck water officials urged voluntary water conservation. 

City water usage reaching highs during drought, by Jessica Holdman, The Bismarck Tribune (N. Dak.), June 6, 2017

Drought causing ranchers to sell cattle, by Jessica Holdman, The Bismarck Tribune (N. Dak.), June 6, 2017

Signs of drought crop up across Northeast Montana, by Montana Dept. of Natural Resources and Conservation, Belgrade News (Bozeman, Mont.), June 2, 2017

Water restrictions issued in northeastern, southwestern Florida

Restrictions on water use were deemed necessary in both northeastern and southwestern Florida as below-normal rainfall strained supplies.  In mid-May, the St. Johns River Water Management District declared a water shortage warning, intending to make the public aware of the need for conservation and to curb water use.  Previously, part of the district was in a water shortage alert starting in March, but authorities expanded and upgraded the alert to involve all 18 counties within the district as drought became extreme. 

In Southwest Florida, the Southwest Florida Water Management District implemented water restrictions permitting outdoor watering just once weekly.  The district had a precipitation deficit of 11 inches since the dry season began in October, making this the driest dry season in 103 years. The restrictions will be in effect through August 1, 2017.

Water shortage warning declared for 18 Northeast Florida counties, by Dan Scanlan, The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville), May 16, 2017

District Tightens Water Restrictions throughout 16-County Region, Southwest Florida Water Management District (Tampa), May 23, 2017

Ag producers face challenges in Southeast

As the dry conditions persisted through the spring, farmers were concerned about their crops and were doing their best to cope.  In Florida, many ranchers were seeking to purchase hay because drought meant that grass was not growing well, and hay was scarce. Buyers looking for large round bales were settling for smaller square bales.  Parts of Georgia and Alabama were also having a critical hay shortage.

In early May, some Alabama farmers were waiting for rain to increase soil moisture levels before planting spring crops. Particularly in south Alabama in the Wiregrass region, rain was needed to moisten soil for planting, and farmers were postponing planting cotton and peanuts until rain fell. Farmers with irrigation capability were using it.

Drought causing local hay shortage, headaches for ranchers, by Linda Charlton, Leesburg Daily Commercial (Fla.), May 1, 2017

Drought Delays Planting, Farmers Look Toward May, by Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Growing Alabama (Bridgeboro, Ga.), May 2, 2017

Drought ends in parts of the Northeast

Spring rainfall soothed the dryness in the Northeast, clearing the way for the easing of drought watches and advisories in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.  Connecticut’s drought watch was lifted and replaced by a drought advisory as the Connecticut Interagency Drought Workgroup updated the state’s drought status.  While two months of above-normal precipitation improved water supplies, the group warned that "streamflow and groundwater levels have demonstrated some volatility and remain vulnerable."

Massachusetts no longer had any drought or abnormal dryness after wet weather slowly eradicated the dryness.  Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton ended the drought advisory affecting much of the state.

In Pennsylvania, 19 counties in the southeastern part of the state were no longer in a drought watch and returned to normal status. 

After needed rain, state ends 1st ever drought watch, by Jim Shay, Danbury News Times (Conn.), May 9, 2017

Drought in Massachusetts has ended, by Andy Rosen, Boston Globe, May 11, 2017

State ends drought watch, by Myles Snyder, ABC27 News, The Sentinel (Carlisle, Pa.), May 16, 2017




For more drought information, please visit the Drought Impact Reporter.



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