The area of the United States in nearly all categories of drought expanded fractionally despite improvement in the Southeast on the Feb. 19 U.S. Drought Monitor.
“Over the last seven days, the most active area for precipitation was in the southeast United States, where areas of southern Georgia and South Carolina recorded over 2 inches of rain, with locally heavier amounts of close to 3.5 inches in Georgia,” wrote Brian Fuchs, the author of this week’s map. “A winter storm over the southern Plains brought wet snow to much of the Panhandle of Texas and into portions of Oklahoma. Areas of Southern Florida received up to 2 inches of rain.”
Drought improved in central and southern Georgia and South Carolina and in south Florida, as well as eastern Texas, the Texas Panhandle and central Arizona, Fuchs said in narrative accompanying the map. Fuchs is a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center, based at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He also noted that drought got worse in northern and central Florida, south Texas and the Oklahoma Panhandle, and that a new area of abnormal dryness, the precursor to drought, was introduced in northern California.
Drought over the Plains was unchanged as “the little precipitation did not allow for any improvements and the time of year did not dictate any degradation,” Fuchs wrote.
“Over the next week to 10 days, several storm systems are anticipated to come out of the Southwest and onto the Plains,” Fuchs said. “With the current status of drought and the frozen soils in the region, we don’t think much of the moisture associated with these storms will make it into the ground, but the runoff associated with them will improve some of the reservoir, pond, and lake levels that are also hurting. The winter precipitation deficits are so great throughout the Plains that as we get closer to the spring thaw, we would need several storms to make a significant dent in the ongoing drought.”
The total area of all 50 states and Puerto Rico in moderate drought or worse expanded on the Feb. 19 U.S. Drought Monitor to 47 percent from 46.93 percent the week before, the area in severe or worse drought declined to 31.3 percent from 31.58 percent, the area in extreme drought increased to 15.6 percent from 14.81 percent, and the area in exceptional drought increased to 5.57 percent from 5.52 percent.
Drought Monitor authors synthesize many drought indicators into a single map that identifies areas of the country that are abnormally dry (D0), in moderate drought (D1), in severe drought (D2), extreme drought (D3) and exceptional drought (D4).
The U.S. Drought Monitor map is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and about 350 drought observers across the country. It is released each Thursday based on data through the previous Tuesday morning.
Statistics for the percent area in each category of drought are automatically added to the U.S. Drought Monitor website each week for the entire country and Puerto Rico, for the 48 contiguous states, for each climate region, and for individual states. U.S. Drought Monitor data online goes back to January 2000.
U.S. Drought Monitor map, statistics and narrative summary: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu
National Climatic Data Center’s State of the Climate Drought Summary:
Seasonal Drought Outlook: