Tuesday, August 22, 2017

National Drought Mitigation Center

November 2014 Drought and Impact Summary

Drought entrenched over West Coast and Southwest

by Brian Fuchs, NDMC Climatologist








The time series below shows the proportion of the South -- Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee -- in various levels of drought. The area was last drought-free in 2010.
 

Drought: Drought conditions improved slightly in November with 28.91 percent of the contiguous United States in drought on Nov. 25 compared to 29.61 percent on Oct. 28. Severe drought improved from 18.02 to 16.81 percent of the area, extreme drought improved from 9.17 to 8.72 percent, and exceptional drought improved from 3.99 to 3.68 percent. At the end of November, 67.7 million people lived in an area affected by drought, compared to 70.9 million at the end of October.

Temperature: November brought with it a quick transition from autumn to winter in many locations, especially with regard to temperatures. The majority of the United States had below-normal temperatures for the month, with the coldest readings in the Midwest and Southeast, where it was 8-10 degrees Fahrenheit colder than normal. The only areas of the country that had above-normal temperatures in November were in the Southwest and along the West Coast, where it was 2-6 degrees warmer than normal.

Precipitation: November brought with it the first snow of the season for many locations but conditions were dry over the majority of the United States.  One of the most significant snow events ever took place Nov. 17-19 in and around Buffalo, New York.  More than 5 feet of snow fell on areas just east of the Buffalo metro area, although in areas to the north, just a few inches were recorded.  To make matters even worse, another lake effect event Nov. 19-20 brought with it another 1-4 feet of snow over much of the same region.  Totals approached 7 feet for the two events and brought with it several impacts to the region. Fortunately, flooding was minor.  The driest locations were in Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, western Kentucky, western Tennessee, and along the coastal regions of northern California, Oregon, and Washington. These areas were as much as 4 inches drier than normal for the month. Areas wetter than normal in November were mainly in Texas, the northern Rocky Mountains, the Southeast and Florida. Some areas of southern Georgia and central Florida received up to 4 inches more precipitation than usual. Portions of Texas and northern Idaho were 2-4 inches wetter than normal.

Outlook: The warm and dry conditions which have been affecting the western United States are expected to continue in December. Forecasters and drought observers do not anticipate substantial changes to the drought status over the western and southwestern United States during December. However, portions of south central Oklahoma and central Texas could see some reduction in drought intensity and even some removal of drought.

Movers & Shakers for November 2014
State
Percent area
Oct. 28, 2014
Percent area
Nov. 25, 2014
Status Percentage point change
Biggest increase in drought
Mississippi
0.11
11.63 moderate 11.52
Biggest improvements to drought
Alabama
17.23
12.61 moderate 4.62
California
58.41 55.08 exceptional 3.33
Georgia 12.61 3.51 moderate 9.10
Oklahoma 64.49 59.85 moderate 4.64
56.08 40.85 severe 15.23
23.00 18.33 extreme 4.67
Texas 49.20 42.56 moderate 6.64
27.86 22.05 severe 5.81

Regional Overviews

Northeast

November temperatures in the Northeast were generally 2-6 degrees cooler than normal, and precipitation was generally 1.5-3 inches less than normal, although areas of southern New Jersey, Long Island, Rhode Island, eastern Connecticut, and eastern Massachusetts were up to 3 inches wetter than usual. Drought continues to be of little concern in the region, with only 2.37 percent of the area in drought, confined to southeastern New York, eastern Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Southeast

Temperatures for November in the Southeast were generally 4-8 degrees cooler than  normal, although areas of southern Florida were only 2-4 degrees cooler than usual. Most of the Southeast was dry in November, including portions of southern Alabama, which were short as much as 6 inches of precipitation compared with the usual. Exceptions were areas in north central Florida, southern Georgia, the Carolinas, and the Florida peninsula, where it was as much as 4-6 inches wetter than usual for the month.  Drought conditions improved over these areas, reducing the proportion of the region in drought to 3.47 percent at the end of November, compared to 6.56 percent at the end of October.


Midwest

November temperatures were as much as 10 degrees colder than normal in the Midwest.  It was also fairly dry, except for areas of Michigan, northern Wisconsin and central Minnesota that saw 1-2 inches above normal precipitation. Generally, most of the region was 2-3 inches drier than normal for November. Drought conditions did not change much, as the time of year dictates less demand for water. November ended with just 0.11 percent of the region in drought, an increase from zero at the end of October.


High Plains

Temperatures were 4-8 degrees colder than normal in November across the High Plains.  Mainly dry conditions, about 2 inches below normal, were commonplace in November. But some areas of western North Dakota, South Dakota, northern Wyoming and central Colorado were up to 1.50 inches wetter than normal. Drought worsened slightly in November, with 11.17 percent of the region now in drought compared to 10.69 percent at the end of October. Severe drought stayed the same, affecting 5.63 percent of the region.


South

Temperatures in the South were 4-6 degrees cooler than normal over much of the region in November. Texas had many areas that were 1.5-3 inches wetter than normal. Areas of eastern Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana were as much as 4.5 inches drier than normal for the month. Drought conditions improved in the region, mainly over Texas and southern Oklahoma. Drought now affects 31.83 percent of the region, compared to 34.58 percent a month ago. Severe drought improved from 21.54 to 16.57 percent of the region.


West

As has been the case for much of 2014, California, Nevada, Arizona and the coastal regions of Oregon and Washington were 2-4 degrees warmer than normal. The eastern portions of the region were 2-4 degrees cooler than normal. The start of the water year has been slow up to this point, with most areas at or slightly below normal precipitation in November. The driest locations were along the coasts of northern California, western Oregon, and western Washington, where precipitation measured up to 6 inches below normal in November. In contrast, areas of Idaho, Montana and eastern Oregon were wetter than normal for November, by as much as 3 inches in the panhandle of Idaho. Drought conditions did not change much at all during the month, with 54.99 percent of the region in drought on Nov. 25, compared to 55.05 percent Oct. 28.


Ongoing drought prompts shifts in agriculture, support for water projects

Of the 120 impacts in the Drought Impact Reporter for November, nearly 30% dealt with water supply, and 24% concerned official responses to drought.
The chart at left breaks down impacts by category for each of the eight states that were most affected.
Reservoir levels through Dec. 1 for most California reservoirs were well below normal, according to this chart updated daily by the California Department of Water Resources.
 
Although it is early in the snow season, this chart from the California Department of Water Resources shows that snowpack as of early December for California is about 20% of average for this time of year.
  Texas reservoirs were 62.5% full as of Dec. 3, with greater shortfalls in the central part of the state, according to Water Data for Texas.

by Denise Gutzmer, NDMC Drought Impact Specialist

As the Southwest and West Coast endured another month of drought, the Drought Impact Reporter documented 120 impacts. Most impacts related to intense drought in California, where water supplies were creeping ever lower. A new concern with the advent of the rainy season is the increased potential for mudslides and flooding in coastal California. During November, 87 impacts were entered for California, 26 for Texas and 12 for Nevada.

Drought increases political will to implement mitigation strategies

Groundwater levels continued to fall and reservoirs remained low in California in November as the state approached three full years of drought. (The first substantial appearance of the current drought in California on the U.S. Drought Monitor was on Jan. 3, 2012, when 46.34 percent of the state entered moderate drought.)  Increased political attention turned to water issues at the state, local and federal levels.

California voters fund upgrades to water system

Proposition 1, a measure authorizing $7.5 billion in water bonds, was passed by California voters by a 2 to 1 margin. Construction on state-funded dams and reservoirs will begin for the first time in 30 years in order to have more water on hand for future droughts. The ongoing drought boosted support for the measure. A little more than one-third of the money will be used to build dams, reservoirs and other water storage structures.

“Propositions 1 and 2 sail to resounding victories,” by Mark Emmons, San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), Nov. 4, 2014

Greater appeal of water reuse to thirsty Californians

More California cities were considering recycling water after three intense years of drought. Recycled water was previously not very appealing, but diminishing water resources have San Diegans, for example, seeing water reuse in a more favorable light than they did a decade ago. Orange County intends to ramp up its production of recycled water from 70 million gallons daily to 100 million gallons. The Santa Clara Valley Water District also has plans to construct water recycling facilities.

“San Diego advances plan to recycle wastewater,” by Elliot Spagat, San Francisco Chronicle (SFGate.com), Nov. 18, 2014

Drought leads to closer look at water use

Various water uses are coming in for more scrutiny, thanks to the drought.

  • Visalia officials and residents were irritated by the release of 540,000 gallons of water into a street gutter when a water utility and government agencies were searching for the source of chemical contamination in a well.
  • In Sacramento, protesters blocked the truck entrances to a Nestle Waters North America bottling plant to express their disapproval of the corporation’s bottling and selling of the city’s municipal water.
  • In Riverside County, the Coachella Valley Water District approved plans for a proposed development on 577 acres of desert near the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa. Residents expressed concerns about the wisdom of constructing homes in the desert, when water supplies are already stressed and under dispute.

“Government water dump down the gutter irks Visalia leaders,” by Lewis Griswold, The Fresno Bee (Calif.), Nov. 25, 2014
“Nestlé Water Plant's Impact On Sacramento's Supply,” by Ed Joyce, Capital Public Radio (Sacramento, Calif.), Nov. 6, 2014
“CVWD OKs plans for Agua Caliente land development,” Brian James, Palm Springs Desert Sun (Calif.), Nov. 13, 201

Congressional action pending on California water

A draft bill concerning application of the Endangered Species Act in California was under negotiation in the House of Representatives. The negotiations were private, making those affected but uninvolved in the talks uneasy. Many would like to see environmental rules eased to bring more water to farms, but Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California ended negotiations on the water bill in favor of trying again when the next session of Congress begins in January.

“Talks on drought bill underway on Capitol Hill,” by Michael Doyle and Mark Grossi, The Fresno Bee (Calif.), Nov. 18, 2014
“Feinstein shuts off California water talks until 2015,” by Michael Doyle, The Fresno Bee (Calif.), Nov. 20, 2014
“California communities still thirsting for drought help from Congress,” by Michael Doyle, McClatchyDC, Sept. 9, 2014

Drought limits groundwater recovery

Water sources in Orange County were strained due to dropping groundwater levels. In September, the South Coast Water District closed its single well groundwater recovery facility because little water was flowing into the basin, and saltwater intrusion was a worry. The facility remained closed through November with no word on when it might reopen.

The San Juan Capistrano groundwater recovery facility was producing only 30 percent of the city’s drinking water, rather than the 50 percent it normally makes. Because groundwater levels were going down, the city stopped using two of eight wells to avoid over-pumping.

“San Juan Capistrano officials seek solutions to water shortage,” by Meghann M. Cuniff, Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.), Nov. 19, 2014

San Francisco to add groundwater to supply

To stretch existing water stores, San Francisco water authorities plan to add groundwater to the city’s pristine Sierra runoff held in the Hetch Hetchy reservoir. The groundwater is laden with minerals and nitrates above state standards, but when mixed with the normal water supply, many people could taste no difference. The blend of water will enter residents’ taps in late 2015 or 2016.

“California drought: S.F. wants to add groundwater to tap,” by Kurtis Alexander, San Francisco Chronicle (SFGate.com), Nov. 24, 2014

Help for Tulare County residents with dry wells

At least 810 wells have gone dry in Tulare County, leaving homes without water.  This hardship drove the Tulare County Office of Emergency Service to set up portable showers in East Porterville. It is costing the county $30,000 a month for 26 portable showers to serve the population of 7,000 residents, with the state paying 75 percent of the cost.  Many people had previously resorted to taking sponge baths from buckets because they had no other option.

Many other households have installed water tanks, and are finding that even with donated tanks, the water to fill them is expensive.  Even a water hauler—one of two in the county—was having trouble finding water to deliver to homeowners because his supplier, a municipal water provider, could no longer offer him water.

 “Water tanks replace dry wells as drought victims prepare for winter,” by Mark Grossi and Lewis Griswold, The Fresno Bee (Calif.), Nov. 15, 2014
“Dry Central California town gets portable showers,” by Scott Smith, Associated Press, Nov. 18, 2014

Rural areas in San Mateo County facing dry springs and wells

San Mateo County farmers and ranchers have cut production, some drastically, because there was very little water for irrigation and pasture growth, leading to major cuts in crop cultivation and grazing livestock in the county. Most farmers have cut production by as much as one-third. In addition to rationing water for indoor use, ranchers have taken measures such as moving herds to leased pastures at substantial additional expense. A county park in Loma Mar with 154 campsites closed, to conserve water for residents.

“California drought hits San Mateo County coast particularly hard,” by Kurtis Alexander, San Francisco Chronicle (SFGate.com), Nov. 16, 2014

California fire danger not over

This has been a challenging year for wildfires in California as parched vegetation and low humidity after years of drought elevate the fire danger. The fire season persisted through November, with Cal Fire placing three strike teams in San Bernardino, the Los Angeles area and Santa Clarita to be well-positioned to reach fires quickly.

Cal Fire also kept firefighting resources at summer levels in Riverside and San Bernardino counties as the fire danger remained high. Staffing reductions usually occur in November. Cal Fire’s Inland units have not transitioned to winter staffing since Nov. 21, 2011.

“INLAND FORECAST: High winds, dry air trigger fire warning,” by Peter Surowski, The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, Calif.), Nov. 17, 2014
“WILDFIRES: Threat should be dropping this time of year—but isn't,” by Brian Rokos, The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, Calif.), Nov. 15, 2014

 Number of Fires and Acres in California
 Interval Fires Acres
 Jan. 1-Nov. 29, 2014
5,579 90,755
 Jan. 1-Nov. 29, 2013
5,103 116,716
5-year average (same interval)
4,533 86,948
 Statistics include all wildfires responded to by CAL FIRE in both the State Responsibility Area, as well as the Local Responsibility Area under contract with the department, plus all large wildfires in the State Responsibility Area protected by CAL FIRE’s contract counties.

Drought worsens air pollution in the San Joaquin Valley

Heat, drought and temperature inversions have significantly worsened California’s air pollution over the past year. Last winter, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District saw the worst air pollution in more than 10 years. During the first week of November 2014, air quality took a dive. Chronic exposure to smog has contributed to thousands of premature deaths each year in California, largely from heart attacks and cardiovascular disease.

“Heat, drought worsen smog in California, stalling decades of progress,” by Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times (CA), Nov. 10, 2014

Drought disrupts wildlife habitat and migration

Drought is especially hard on wildlife because their food and water supplies or traditional migratory paths are cut off, and some creatures cannot relocate easily. 

  • Hungry baby squirrels have fallen out of nests in parts of Northern California as they seek food.
  • Hungry bears in residential areas of Brookings in southwestern Oregon have caused a spike in calls to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife because drought reduced the acorn crop. 
  • Drought also slowed the salmon spawning run in the Sacramento Valley where Chinook salmon were expected to swim up rivers and streams and spawn during October and November.
  • On Staten Island in the San Joaquin Delta, about twice as many sandhill cranes as usual and a much larger population of greater white fronted geese came to winter. Scientists were unsure of the exact reason for the change, but think that drought and a shift in crops are responsible for the vast number of birds that showed up on the island.

“Orphaned baby squirrels just one wildlife casualty of drought,” by Veronica Rocha, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 25, 2014
“Drought blamed for bear activity,” by Jane Stebbins, Curry Coastal Pilot (Brookings, Ore.), Nov. 18, 2014
“Sacramento’s salmon run in full swing, but drought still a worry,” by Matt Weiser, The Sacramento Bee (Calif.) Nov. 16, 2014
“Cranes crowd Staten Island as other Valley habitat dries up,” by Edward Ortiz, The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Nov. 7, 2014

Bay Area water thefts increasingly common

Water thefts have become more common in the Bay Area and from urban suppliers in California. Some water rustlers fill up at water hydrants during the night, while others are bolder and take water in broad daylight. A number of cities including Lemoore, Modesto, Los Gatos, Dublin, San Ramon and others have recently dealt with such thefts.

“Byproduct of drought: Water thieves,” by Dennis Cuff, Contra Costa Times (Calif.), Nov. 7, 2014

Tourists flocking to see relics in drought-stricken California lakes

More tourists were flocking to see foundations, old bridges and other relics as drought depleted California lakes and exposed objects not seen in many years. In Lake Don Pedro, the foundation from the stamp mill of the old Eagle-Shawmut mine has reappeared. The visitor center near New Melones Lake has fielded many inquiries about when certain landmarks will become visible. At Lake McClure, the old Yosemite Railway tunnels are high above the water line and have been exposed for several months.

The remnants of Lexington and Alma were reappearing in Lexington Reservoir. Stone foundations of homes and part of the Santa Cruz highway were visible, and visitors were making off with artifacts, such as silver spoons and silver coins.

“Lake-level watching is new tourism fad,” by Jeff Jardine, Merced Sun-Star (Calif.), Nov. 16, 2014
“Drought reveals historic ruins of old South Bay towns,” by Azenith Smith, KTVU-TV Oakland, San Francisco, Bay Area (Calif.), Nov. 9, 2014

Texas

Texas disaster declaration continues

Texas Governor Rick Perry once more extended the disaster declaration, stating that exceptional drought threatened numerous counties with imminent disaster. The original emergency disaster proclamation was signed on July 5, 2011—nearly 3 ½ years ago—and has been extended monthly since then.

Lower Colorado River Authority seeks OK for reduced water releases

The Lower Colorado River Authority sought permission from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to cut the amount of water it releases from the Highland Lakes for irrigation for the fourth straight year, and to reduce spring water releases for the spawning needs of the blue sucker for the second year in a row. Rice farmers near the Gulf Coast have suffered greatly without the water, with some no longer cultivating rice.

“Citing drought, LCRA seeks to curb Highland Lake releases in 2015,” by Asher Price, Austin American-Statesman (Texas), Nov. 19, 2014
“During drought, once-mighty Texas Rice Belt fades away,” by Dylan Baddour, StateImpact Texas, Aug. 12, 2014.

National agricultural impacts

Produce and turkey volumes down

As the California drought persists, produce volume declined, leading to short supplies and rising prices across the country going into the Thanksgiving holiday, particularly for iceberg lettuce, cauliflower and broccoli. The Produce News warned that produce supplies were not adequate to meet demand. Turkey production, too, was lower than in the past 30 years because high corn prices led farmers to produce fewer turkeys.

 “Vegetable supplies expected to be tight through Thanksgiving,” by Tim Linden, The Produce News (Oradell, N.J.), Oct. 31, 2014
“Turkey Production Down, Wholesale Prices Up,”
by Bill Draper, Associated Press, Nov. 15, 2014

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