The U.S. Drought Monitor map registered the effects of winter storm patterns in the Southeast and in the southern Plains, showing a net decline in all categories of drought for the week that ended Feb. 26.
The total area of the country in moderate drought or worse declined to 45.63 percent, down from 47 percent the week before, and the total area in other categories of drought showed similar decreases.
The area of the Southeast in moderate drought or worse declined to 27.26 percent, down from 43.76 percent the week before. The Southeast was free of extreme and exceptional drought for the first time since August 2010, and Georgia was free of extreme and exceptional drought for the first time since May 2011.
“The more widespread, multi-category improvements are consistent with the wet pattern in the Southeast over the last month or so,” said Brian Fuchs, this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor author. “It’s been a very consistent wet period.”
Weeks of wet weather in the south Plains brought about incremental improvements, Fuchs said. Oklahoma and Kansas are still deep in drought but saw improvements in the hardest-hit areas. Conditions in Texas improved in the Panhandle but deteriorated further south.
Drought intensified in New Mexico and in California. “The West had a great start to the snow season in December and January but since then it’s completely shut off,” Fuchs said. He noted that the Pecos River Basin in New Mexico is having a particularly dry year, with water managers anticipating minimal spring runoff.
Brad Rippey, U.S. Department of Agriculture meteorologist in the Office of the Chief Economist, said this is the first time since early July 2012 that less than two-thirds of the U.S. cattle inventory is in a drought-affected area.
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:
-- Kelly Helm Smith, National Drought Mitigation Center