Tuesday, August 22, 2017

National Drought Mitigation Center

Drought and Climate for November 2016: Drought conditions persist in West, deteriorate in South

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

Drought

Continued warmth and dryness further deteriorated drought conditions in the South, Southeast, Midwest, and parts of the Plains and Rocky Mountains.  For the most part, the West saw a persistence of drought conditions, although a few regions in Oregon, northern California, western Nevada, southern Montana, and northern Wyoming saw improvement.  The Northeast and Texas saw a mix of persistence, deterioration, and improvements to the drought status.  As a whole, drought conditions deteriorated during the month, with 48.62 percent of the contiguous United States in drought on November 29 compared to 42.12 percent on November 1.  Severe drought increased from 24.53 to 29.99 percent, extreme drought increased from 12.93 to 16.77 percent, and exceptional drought increased from 5.63 to 6.95 percent. Drought also increased in Hawaii from 1.68 to 8.34 percent. There was no drought in Alaska and Puerto Rico. At the beginning of November, approximately 128.7 million people were being impacted by drought in the United States, compared to approximately 148.6 million people at the end of the month.

Drought Outlook

The Climate Prediction Center’s Monthly Drought Outlook projects that drought conditions will begin to improve in the Southeast and Northeast during the month of December.  A shift in the jet stream in late November brought welcome rainfall to these drought-afflicted regions. The forecast calls for a continuation of this weather pattern, with rain dampening the landscape and cooler temperatures aiding in soil moisture recharge.  Drought in the majority of the High Plains is expected to persist as the region enters its dry season.  Precipitation outlooks favor the removal of the moderate drought conditions in central North Dakota and eastern South Dakota.  Likewise, above-normal precipitation combined with below-normal temperatures is expected to improve remaining drought areas in the Northwest.  Uncertainty in the forecasts for California and the Southwest have led to a drought outlook of persistence in these areas.  Outside the contiguous United States, improvement is favored in Hawaii.  Alaska and Puerto Rico are not currently in drought, nor is it expected to develop by the end of December.

Temperatures

Once again, most of the United States experienced above-normal temperatures during the month of November. Departures of more than 12 degrees above average were recorded across the north-central United States. According to the Southeast Regional Climate Center Climate Perspectives Analysis, multiple stations in North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan broke records for the warmest November.  Record warmth was also felt in parts of the Northwest and South.  The only colder than average temperatures were across the coastal Southeast, where departures of up to 3 degrees below average were recorded.

Precipitation

November precipitation ranged from 6 inches below average in southern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle to more than 9 inches above average along the Washington coast. Much of the country had near- to below-normal precipitation during the month.  The largest departures occurred across the Southeast, with deficits of more than 6 inches below normal.   Above-average precipitation was recorded along the West Coast and in the northern Plains, Southwest, and parts of the Intermountain West.  Wet conditions continued in November in the Pacific Northwest, with coastal areas recording monthly totals of more than 9 inches above normal.

 

Regional Overviews

Northeast

Temperatures in the Northeast were predominantly above normal during the month, with departures ranging from about 1 degree above normal in Delaware and Maryland to more than 3 degrees F above normal in Maine.  November was also generally drier than normal. All states in the region saw below-normal precipitation, ranging from less than 25 percent of normal in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Maryland to slightly below normal in Maine. A few localized areas in Maine, New York, and New Jersey recorded above-normal precipitation.  The warm, dry conditions resulted in an expansion of drought so that it now includes 51.24 percent of the region, compared to 54.36 percent on November 1. However, severe drought (D2) decreased slightly from 19.86 to 19.69 percent.   Extreme drought (D3) increased from 1.37 to 3.4 percent.  The region was not experiencing exceptional drought.

Southeast

November temperatures across the Southeast ranged from slightly below normal in the coastal areas and across much of Florida to more than 4 degrees above normal in Alabama, the Florida Panhandle, northern and southwestern Georgia, and the western portions of the Carolinas and Virginia. Precipitation continued to be well below normal, with most parts of the region experiencing less than 50 percent of their normal rainfall for the month of November.  All states had locations recording monthly total precipitation that ranked among the top 10 driest. Several stations also set or tied records for the longest streak of November days without measureable rainfall.  Some locations in northeast Alabama and northwest Georgia have gone more than 60 days without rain. Accordingly, drought expanded and intensified during November.   By the end of the month, 54.89 percent of the region was in drought compared to 38.83 on November 1.  Severe drought increased from 27.52 to 43.33 percent, extreme drought increased from 19.68 to 36.15 percent, and exceptional drought increased from 5.54 to 15.06 percent of the region.
Movers & Shakers for November 2016
State

Percent area November 1, 2016

Percent area November 29, 2016 Status Percentage point change
Biggest increases in drought
Alabama 74.76
100.00
Moderate 25.24
51.91
96.51
Severe
44.60
14.84
32.75
Extreme 17.91
Arkansas
61.29
86.49
Moderate
25.20
3.88
46.92 Severe 43.04
Colorado
24.31
35.23
Moderate
10.92
Connecticut
69.32
82.90
Severe
13.58
0
44.28
Extreme
44.28
Delaware
0
7.73
Moderate
7.73
Florida
14.64
24.37
Moderate
9.73
0.14
17.37
Severe
17.23
0
7.40
Extreme
7.40
Georgia 57.84
88.87
Moderate
31.03
49.92
74.56
Severe
24.64
39.57
62.36
Extreme
22.79
14.00
33.22
Exceptional
19.22
Hawaii
1.68
 8.34 Moderate
6.66
Indiana
9.57
13.86 Moderate
4.29
Kansas
4.19
30.50 Moderate
26.31
0
10.50
Severe
 10.50
Kentucky 81.88
98.49
Moderate 16.61
0
89.71
Severe
89.71
0
24.76
Extreme
24.76
Louisiana
75.78
99.61
Moderate
23.83
17.52
69.01
Severe 51.49
0
20.79
Extreme
20.79
Maine
13.45
39.08
Severe
25.63
Mississippi
59.50
100
Severe
40.50
26.65 71.48
Extreme
44.83
Missouri
1.55
9.19
Moderate
7.64
Nebraska
4.12
12.70
Moderate
8.58
New Jersey
57.07
67.55
Moderate
10.48
North Carolina
19.11
 32.61 Moderate
13.50
12.01
18.04
Severe
6.03
5.43
12.75
Extreme
7.32
0
4.46
Exceptional
4.46
Oklahoma
36.44
56.94
Moderate
20.50
7.90
18.48
Severe
10.58
Pennsylvania
16.03
34.34
Moderate
18.31
0.88
3.98
Severe
3.10
South Carolina
22.02
40.49
Moderate
18.47
16.41
26.90
Severe
10.49
12.20
20.98
Extreme
8.78
0
5.61
Exceptional
5.61
Tennessee 97.46
100
Moderate
2.54
35.09
99.08
Severe 63.99
14.71
60.43
Extreme
45.72
5.07
13.60
Exceptional
8.53
Virginia
3.4
28.39
Moderate 24.99
0
 4.82 Severe
4.82
West Virginia
0
4.06
Moderate
4.06
Wyoming
9.47
14.11 Severe
4.64
Biggest improvements in drought
Nevada
21.69
7.47
Severe
14.22
New York
83.17
64.82
Moderate
18.35
32.65
 13.54 Severe
19.11
Oregon
27.07
23.22
Moderate
3.85
Texas
 6.50 3.27
Severe
3.23
Vermont
29.15 12.40
Severe
16.75

Midwest

Warmer than normal temperatures continued to prevail in the Midwest, with many locations recording monthly mean temperatures that fell within the top 10 warmest Novembers.  Departures ranged from more than 12 degrees above normal in northwestern Minnesota to slightly above normal (0.1 degrees) in the southeastern part of the region. November precipitation ranged from 2 inches (200 percent) above normal in Minnesota to more than 3 inches (25 percent) below normal in parts of Missouri and Kentucky.  Overall, drought expanded in the region, increasing to 10.67 percent of the region from 7.58 percent on November 1.  Severe (D2) and extreme (D3) drought were introduced and now cover 7.89 and 2 percent of the region, respectively.

High Plains

Temperatures across the High Plains were once again warmer than normal. Multiple stations recorded monthly mean temperatures that fell within the top 3 warmest for November.  The greatest departures, of up to 15 degrees above normal, were observed in eastern North Dakota.  Mean temperatures in South Dakota generally exceeded 9 degrees above normal, while departures in Nebraska and Kansas were in the range of 3 to 6 degrees above normal.   Precipitation ranged from over 200 percent (1 inch above normal) over parts of the Dakotas to less than 25 percent of normal (0.5 to 2 inches below normal) in Kansas.  Drought persisted in South Dakota, expanded in Nebraska and Kansas, and developed in central North Dakota.  At the end of November, drought was impacting 21.97 percent of the region compared to 12.91 percent on November 1.  Severe drought (D2) expanded to 2.7 percent from 0.56 percent.  The region was not experiencing extreme (D3) or exceptional (D4) drought.

South

The South also generally experienced warmer than normal temperatures during the month.  Departures ranged from near normal in eastern Tennessee to 7 degrees above normal in Oklahoma.  Stations across the region recorded mean values in the top 10 warmest for the month of November.  Departures of more than 6 degrees above normal were recorded across much of Oklahoma and parts of Texas, while departures of 2 to 4 degrees were generally recorded elsewhere in the region. Much of western and central Texas was wetter than normal, with departures of 1 to 2 inches above normal. The remainder of the region was largely drier than normal, recording less than 75 percent of the normal precipitation amount for November.  With the exception of Texas, drought expanded and intensified so that 49.52 percent of the region was in drought at the end of the month compared to 42.25 percent on November 1.  Severe drought (D2) increased from 14.52 to 32.07 percent, extreme drought (D3) increased from 3.6 to 13.67 percent, and exceptional drought (D4) increased from 0.41 to 1.34 percent.

West

November brought above-normal temperatures to the West.  The greatest departures, of 10 degrees above normal, occurred in Montana and set records for the warmest November.    Records were also set in Washington, where departures ranged from 3 to 6 degrees above normal. Abundant precipitation once again occurred along the coastal regions of the Northwest, where departures were more than 9 inches (150 percent) above normal.  Much of the remainder of the region remained dry. 

As a whole, drought in the West increased slightly, from 25.26 to 25.58 percent of the region.  Severe drought decreased from 11.18 to 1.28 percent and extreme and exceptional drought remain unchanged at 5.73 and 2.81 percent, respectively.

 

 

 

 

November 2016 impact summary: Wildfires spread across Southeast; reservoir storage reduced in Northeast

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

By Denise Gutzmer, NDMC Drought Impact Specialist

November was a month of heavy wildfire activity in the Southeast, as dry weather increased the incidence and expanse of the fires.  Burn bans restricted burning in numerous states as officials tried to reduce the likelihood of additional fires, and arson was the cause of some fires.  Many members of the public logged their drought observations in the Drought Impact Reporter, with about 120 observations coming from Georgia, putting that state far ahead of the others in terms of the impact count for the month of November.  Altogether for the month, Georgia had 140 impacts, while Alabama, North Carolina, and Tennessee followed with 47, 32, and 21 impacts, respectively.  Remaining states had a dozen or fewer impacts. 

Southeast sees numerous wildfires

At the start of November, numerous wildfires were roaring in the Southeast, charring a section of the country that is typically greener and lusher than it was.  Much of the region saw poor rainfall and warmer than normal temperatures through the summer and into the fall, which set the stage for the fire danger and sizeable fires that burned through the month. 

The fires kept intensifying and spreading as the month progressed.  More than 5,000 firefighters descended on the Southeast by November 10 to help battle the many conflagrations burning through forests and forcing evacuations.  Tens of thousands of acres have burned, while about a dozen of the largest fires remained uncontained, according to the U.S. Forest Service. 

Meanwhile, several governors had declared states of emergency and banned outdoor burning to reduce the chances of additional fire sparking, although numerous fires were suspected arson.  Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin declared a state of emergency on November 3, due to 38 wildfires burning largely in the eastern part of the state.  In Alabama, Gov. Robert Bentley extended a “no burn order” on November 5 to encompass all Alabama counties, outlawing any outdoor burning anywhere in the state.  Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina announced a state of emergency on November 15 and stated that more than $10 million had already been spent fighting fires.  Tennessee also had a state of emergency, due to the fires. 

Drought and wildfires plague a region typically known for its ‘rainforest-like’ climate, by John Hopewell, The Washington Post, Nov. 2, 2016

Firefighters from across US battle Appalachian wildfires, by Jeff Martin, The Associated Press, Nov. 10, 2016

Ky wildfires prompt emergency declaration, by Chris Kenning, The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Ky.), Nov. 3, 2016

'No Burn' order expanded to all Alabama counties, The Associated Press, Montgomery Advertiser (Ala.), Nov. 8, 2016

Southern wildfires burn 80,000 acres across six states, by Chandrika Narayan, CNN, Nov. 14, 2016

Flames destroy parts of Gatlinburg, Tennessee

On the evening of November 28, residents of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, were told that they needed to evacuate immediately as flames flew into the community.  A storm system was moving through the region, whipping up winds gusts to 80 and 90 mph, which brought down trees and power lines and blew embers that started new fires.  About 14,000 people in the Gatlinburg area fled, some driving and running between walls of flames to escape to safety. 

The wildfire that consumed parts of Gatlinburg took 14 lives, affected more than 17,000 acres, and damaged or destroyed more than 1,700 structures. The estimated cost of fighting the fire was $3,820,039, as of December 5.

This is how the devastating Gatlinburg wildfire erupted overnight, by Angela Fritz, The Washington Post, Nov. 29, 2016

Haslam: 'Find out what happened' when fire alert not sent, by Travis Dorman, Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tenn.), Dec. 5, 2016

Northeastern U.S. still parched

Dry conditions held in the Northeast, continuing to diminish reservoirs and require conservation from water customers.  In Massachusetts, below-normal water levels in the Quabbin Reservoir prompted officials to urge residents of greater Boston to conserve water.  On November 15, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority announced that the Quabbin Reservoir held less than 80 percent of capacity. 

Reservoirs were a little bit lower in New Jersey where 12 reservoirs in the northern part of the state were collectively hovering around 52 percent of capacity, although their typical storage is about 68 percent in mid-November.  A spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection recommended that the public conserve.  The DEP originally declared a drought warning in 14 counties on October 21, encouraging water conservation. 

In the Delaware River Basin, including parts of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, officials were evaluating emergency measures to keep the salt front from encroaching farther up the river.  Water was already being released from two Pennsylvania reservoirs to keep the salty water away from municipal water intakes in Philadelphia and New Jersey.  The salt front was at River Mile 88 near Philadelphia International Airport, the front’s second highest point in the river since the basin experienced its “drought of record” in 1963, according to the DRBC. 

Conservation urged as Quabbin Reservoir dips ‘below normal’, by The Associated Press, Boston.com, Nov. 16, 2016

N.J. drinking water supplies continue to shrink as drought woes continue, by Len Melisurgo, South Jersey Times (Mullica Hill, N.J.), Nov. 17, 2016

Officials weigh emergency action to repel salt front in Delaware River, by John Hurdle, StateImpact Pennsylvania (Harrisburg), Nov. 15, 2016

Conservation efforts continuing in California

Californians conserved 19.5 percent in October, compared with water use during the same month in 2013.  The conservation rate was 1.8 percent more than during October 2015 and followed the trend of a gradual increase in water use in past months, but overall, the State Water Resources Control Board was pleased with the savings.

State water officials worked on a new conservation plan featuring the creation of customized water-use limits for urban water districts and a focus on fixing leaks, which can drain more than 10 percent of processed water. California towns and cities will be required to create five-year drought contingency plans rather than the three-year plans presently required. Critics expressed disappointment that the agricultural sector was not asked to conserve more.

California water conservation slips again. Here’s how much, by Dale Kasler and Phillip Reese, The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Dec. 6, 2016

California's new water conservation plan focuses on cities, by Ellen Knickmeyer and Scott Smith, The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Dec. 1, 2016

California announces State Water Project initial water allocation

The rainy season in the northern Sierra Nevada has had the wettest start in the past 30 years, according to the National Weather Service.  Since the beginning of October, when the new water year began, the northern Sierra has received about twice the normal precipitation.  Although the rain and snow was very welcome, far more is needed to pull the state out of drought.

The California Department of Water Resources announced an initial water allocation of 20 percent of requested water deliveries for State Water Project customers in 2017. The water allocation estimate will be updated as the winter progresses and more snow falls to offer a better estimate of water deliveries.

Wettest start in 30 years to rainy season in Northern California, but don’t forget the drought, by Dale Kasler and Ryan Sabalow, The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Nov. 28, 2016 

California experiences tree death epidemic

Sixty-two million trees died in 2016 alone, according to U.S. Forest Service aerial surveys.  California has had about 102 million trees die in its forests since 2010, but the deaths skyrocketed this year.  The die-off presents an enormous fire threat, not to mention the challenge of removing the trees, particularly those near power lines, roads, and people.  Most of the dead trees were in the central and southern Sierra. 

Q&A California has 102 million dead trees — and no easy answers for what to do with them, by Matt Stevens, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 28, 2016

 

Please visit the Drought Impact Reporter for more details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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