Drought continued to recede in the Southeast and intensify in Texas in the week that ended March 26, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Statistics released with the map showed miniscule net reductions in most categories of drought. The area of the entire United States in drought, including Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, shrank to 43.51 percent from 43.69 percent the week before. This is down from a peak of 54.77 percent on Sept. 25, 2012, but still reflects widespread drought.
The incremental changes in Texas reflect long-term precipitation shortfalls. Parts of eastern Texas are 8 to 16 inches below normal precipitation for the past six months, said Anthony Artusa, this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor author, in narrative accompanying the map. In the Panhandle, the Greenbelt Lake reservoir dropped to 12 percent of capacity. In the Oklahoma Panhandle, Kenton has had 100 consecutive days without at least a quarter of an inch of precipitation.
Conditions improved in eastern and south-central parts of Colorado. Artusa noted that the next few weeks will be particularly critical for the Upper Colorado River Basin. “Warmer temperatures and low snowfall accumulations could result in quickly deteriorating drought conditions, while colder temperatures and higher snow totals could help in minimizing impacts,” he said.
Rains in the Southeast brought improvements to drought in Georgia and to areas in Florida and South Carolina. Farther west, parts of Kansas showed improvement, too.
U.S. 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