Saturday, November 29, 2014

National Drought Mitigation Center

November 2013 Drought and Impact Summary

Drought continues in West, Southwest and Plains

 
The Climate Prediction Center's Monthly Drought Outlook shows drought is likely to persist in parts of the West, Southwest and Plains.
 
This chart shows a fairly steady decline in drought coverage over the past year. U.S. Drought Monitor time series charts are online.
 
This map highlights changes on the U.S. Drought Monitor map that occurred in November. Change maps are online.
 
The U.S. Drought Monitor map for Nov. 26 showed 30.57 percent of the country in moderate drought or worse.

by Brian Fuchs, NDMC Climatologist

Outlook: Going into December, forecasters anticipate that drought will persist over much of the western United States. Big snows in the central Rocky Mountains early in the month will further improve drought. Drought will likely persist in the Plains and Midwest and possibly expand in portions of Texas. The dryness should end over the Northeast while the Southeast will continue to be dry. Drought may develop over portions of Alabama, Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas.

Drought Coverage: Precipitation brought gradual improvement to drought in the United States in November. The month started with 32.24 percent of the contiguous United States in drought and ended at 30.57 percent. At the same time last year, 62.65 percent of the country was in drought. The intensity of drought also improved as the area in severe drought or worse declined from 17.45 to 16.49 percent during the month. The proportion of the country in extreme drought at the end of the month was 0.39 percent, compared to 6.39 percent at the end of November 2012.  

Temperatures: Temperatures for November sharply contrasted between the eastern and western halves of the United States. From the central Plains eastward, temperatures were below normal, often by as much as 4-6 degrees Fahrenheit. In the West, departures were 2 to 4 degrees above normal. The exception in the east was Florida, where most of the state was about 4 degrees above normal for the month.

Precipitation:  Precipitation during November was variable until the end of the month when the weather became more active with rain and snowfall. The Desert Southwest received about 2 inches more than normal precipitation, which was the first significant rain since the end of the summer monsoon season. Along the West Coast from northern California to Washington, the month was dry, with 6-8 inches less than normal precipitation. Much of Alabama remained dry in November with departures of 4 inches below normal common.  Other areas of the Southeast ended the month with normal to slightly above-normal precipitation. Portions of the Upper Midwest and New England also ended the month with above-normal precipitation.

Regional Roundup

Movers & Shakers for November 2013

State Percent area
Nov. 5, 2013
Percent  area Nov. 26, 2013
Status

Biggest Increases in Drought

California
11.36
27.59 extreme
Massachusetts
44.72 60.46 moderate
New Hampshire
0 9.78 moderate
 New Jersey
0.77 24.95
moderate
 Pennsylvania 0 6.29 moderate

Biggest Improvements in Drought

Arizona
25.28 16.32 severe
 Iowa 27.26 19.70 severe
Illinois 38.06 24.19 moderate
Alaska 16.49 5.12 moderate
Hawaii 67.74 56.67
moderate
Mississippi 8.51 0 moderate

Northeast:  Much of the Northeast recorded below-normal precipitation in November. Moderate drought encompassed 7.79 percent of the region by the end of November, compared to 3.27 percent at the beginning of the month. Abnormally dry conditions, which can lead to drought, covered 42.31 percent of the region.

Southeast: Parts of the Southeast recorded above-normal precipitation during the month, while other areas remained dry. Alabama was the driest, with some places receiving as little as 4 inches below normal precipitation for the month, and a new area of drought appeared there. More than half of the Southeast region was designated as abnormally dry by the end of November.

Midwest: Most of the Midwest remained dry in November, with places in Missouri and Illinois 2-3 inches below normal. But precipitation eased the intensity of drought in the region. The Midwest ended November with 18.49 percent of the area in drought compared to 23.04 percent at the beginning of the month. Extreme drought was eliminated in Iowa and moderate drought declined from 4.55 to 3.08 percent.

High Plains: The High Plains had nearly normal seasonal precipitation for November, with most areas right at or slightly below normal. The proportion in drought remained unchanged at 19.29 percent for the month.

South: Some areas of east Texas, south Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana were well above normal for precipitation in November, while northern Arkansas and Oklahoma were 2-3 inches below normal. Overall, drought conditions improved slightly in the region, from 30.79 to 28.14 percent. Severe drought improved from 13.87 to 12.84 percent while extreme and exceptional drought worsened slightly in the Texas Panhandle and southwest Oklahoma.

West: Dryness along the Pacific coast contrasted with above-normal precipitation in Arizona, New Mexico, southern Nevada, southern Utah and Colorado in November. Drought in the region receded from 51.93 to 49.99 percent but extreme drought expanded from 5.34 to 7.56 percent, mainly in California.



The Drought Impact Reporter showed 77 impacts recorded for November, with 46 related to water supply & quality. 

Thirty percent of the impacts reported in November related to water supply & quality. Twenty percent related to government response to drought, and about 14 percent each to agriculture and the environment.

 


On this chart showing the states with the most impacts, Texas, California and Oklahoma all show water supply & quality as the type of impact that came up most frequently.
This graph from LakesOnline.com shows the fluctuation of Lake Travis throughout the year. The lake in late 2013 is more than 50 feet below full summer pool. 

Folsom Lake is presently lower than it was during the 1976-77 drought, as shown on the graph from the California Department of Water Resources Data Exchange Center

Harvests good in Midwest but TX, CA, OK eyeing water supplies

by Denise Gutzmer, NDMC Drought Impact Specialist

Fall harvest better than initially expected

Midwestern farmers enjoyed better-than-expected crop yields, despite a late-developing summer drought. The U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Nov. 8 Crop Production report forecast corn production to be 14.0 billion bushels, 1 percent higher than the September forecast. Soybean production was forecast to be 3.26 billion bushels, or 3 percent higher. Corn prices have fallen with the harvest of the new corn crop, leading to lower meat prices and an expansion in poultry production in the U.S. [1]

Long-term drought strains water supplies; reduced flows lead to salinity problems

Officials were keeping a close eye on reservoir levels in California, parts of Texas and southwestern Oklahoma, as prolonged dry conditions drained water supplies.

California

Californians were bracing for the possibility of another winter of below-normal precipitation. The California Department of Water Resources announced its meager initial water allocation of 5 percent delivery of requested water, based on early November reservoir levels. Water allocations often start low and increase throughout the winter as storms bring snow that eventually fills reservoirs. Lake Oroville, the largest reservoir belonging to the State Water Project, held 41 percent of capacity, compared with a historical average of 66 percent.  [2]  The State Water Project provides water to about 25 million Californians via 24 municipal water agencies and to farmers in the southern San Joaquin Valley through five water agencies.

Groundwater is becoming depleted in the Central Valley, forcing farmers to dig deeper wells or plant crops requiring less water. The possibility of receiving no irrigation water in 2014 also has many growers preparing their wells for use. Some well drillers are booked until mid-summer 2014. [3]

Land in the San Joaquin Valley continued to sink as farmers relied more on groundwater. The subsidence was especially pronounced from 2008 to 2010 during drought as farmers pumped more groundwater than usual to make up for decreased water allocations. [4]

Texas

The Highland Lakes on the Colorado River in central Texas remain low after years of drought.  The Lower Colorado River Authority proposed unprecedented measures to keep water in the depleted lakes to allow them to recover.  LCRA authorities recommended limiting releases for threatened river species, requiring curbs on outdoor watering in central Texas cities, including Austin, and implementing measures that would make it easier to withhold water from rice farmers near the Gulf Coast.  [5]

The LCRA board approved a plan that would allow them to keep 1.1 million acre-feet of water in the Highland Lakes before sharing water with downstream users. The Texas Board of Environmental Quality must approve the plan before it takes effect. Because lakes Buchanan and Travis were at 36 percent of capacity, it seemed unlikely the lakes would fill enough to allow rice farmers to receive irrigation water in 2014. The lack of irrigation water for the third consecutive year could put rice farmers out of business in Colorado, Matagorda and Wharton counties. [6]

Salinity in Matagorda Bay

Matagorda Bay also relies on the Highland Lakes and the Colorado River for fresh water inflows to reduce the bay’s salinity for oyster beds and fisheries. Years of drought have allowed the salinity of the bay to climb to unhealthy levels for oysters, shrimp and other aquatic life, reducing their populations. The lack of fresh water also has limited the bird population at Matagorda Bay, the birding capital of North America. [7]

Drought and higher salinity in Lavaca and San Antonio bays have cut oyster harvests by half. The warmer, saltier water make oysters more vulnerable to threats such as the oyster drill, which is a snail that feeds on the oysters, and dermo disease, a parasite that kills oysters. [8]

Salinity in Apalachicola Bay

Apalachicola Bay in Florida was also suffering from high salinity and reduced oyster populations. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission closed Apalachicola Bay to oyster harvesting starting on Nov. 23, due to drought and reduced freshwater inflows from the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers. The oyster population in the bay took a nosedive in the summer of 2012 and has not recovered. [9]

Oklahoma

Low water supplies were causing problems for several communities in southwestern Oklahoma as dry conditions prevented lakes from refilling. In Canton, for example, fewer tourists came during the summer, hurting the town’s economy. [10]  Lake Lugert was too low to provide irrigation water for the second year in a row, leaving area farmers without water. [11]  Lake Texoma fell to 612 feet, triggering more stringent restrictions on water use. Inflows to the lake have been 23 percent of average this year. [12]

Hawaii

Water customers in Waimea were ordered to curb their water use by 25 percent as the Hawaii County Department of Water Supply on Nov. 8 declared the area to be under water restriction, due to drought. [13]

National Drought Resilience Partnership announced

A drought preparedness program was announced by Obama administration officials to help communities prepare for drought. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will head up the project. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the National Drought Resilience Partnership, involving the Department of Interior, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Administration. The aim is to help individuals and communities that depend upon regular rainfall for their livelihoods be better prepared for the next drought, through a variety of mitigation strategies. [14]

Migratory Monarchs in the Midwest and Mexico

Two years of drought and habitat destruction in the Midwest have drastically limited the number of butterflies returning to Mexico to overwinter this year. A master naturalist and entomology specialist in Victoria, Texas, said that of the 300 million monarch butterflies that left Mexico this spring, just 60 million of the butterflies’ progeny, or 20 percent of the original number of monarchs, would return to Mexico in the fall. [15]

References

1Cheaper Chickens Seen in Record Corn Cutting Costs: Commodities,” by Elizabeth Campbell & Dalton Barker, Bloomberg, New York, N.Y., Nov. 4, 2013.

2'Dire' prediction for state water allocation,” by Michael Cabanatuan, SFGate, California, Nov. 20, 2013.

3  “Valley Water Drying Up,” by Rich Rodriguez, KMPH Fox 26, Fresno, Calif., Nov. 1, 2013.

4  “USGS finds land sinking rapidly in Central Valley,” by Associated Press, BakersfieldCalifornian.com, Nov. 21, 2013.

5LCRA Proposes Emergency Drought Measures,” by Edgar Walters, The (Austin) Texas Tribune, Nov. 1, 2013.

6Rice farmers face third year without water,” by Matthew Tresangne, Houston Chronicle, Nov. 17, 2013.

7How LCRA River Restrictions Are Affecting Oyster Harvesters In Matagorda Bay,” by Ryan Poppe, (San Antonio) Texas Public Radio, Nov. 20, 2013

8Drought contributes to oyster shortage (w/video),” by Sara Sneath, Victoria (Texas) Advocate, Nov. 25, 2013.

9FWC closes Apalachicola Bay to weekend oyster harvesting,” by Bruce Ritchie, The (Tallahassee) Florida Current, Nov. 22, 2013.

10Canton Businesses on the Brink Months After Oklahoma City Water Withdrawal,” by Logan Layden, StateImpact (Norman) Oklahoma, Nov. 7, 2013.

11Even the best farmers thwarted by drought,” by Ron Smith, Southwest Farm Press, Nov. 7, 2013.

12Lake Texoma in drought management mode,” by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa District, Oklahoma, North (Fannin) Texas e-News, Nov. 15, 2013.

13Drought forces Waimea water restriction,” Big Island Video News, Hilo, Hawaii, Nov. 9, 2013.

14Program designed to help prepare for droughts,” by John Flesher, Associated Press, Yahoo News, Nov. 15, 2013.

15Only 1/5 of monarchs moving through Texas,” by Jennifer Preyss, Victoria (Texas) Advocate, Nov. 11, 2013.

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