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Drought and Climate for November 2019: November sees reduction in drought coverage

by Curtis Riganti

Drought


During November, extreme drought was removed from the Southeast and substantially reduced in Texas, although it was added in southwest Kansas. This brought national coverage of extreme drought down from 0.43 to 0.09 percent. After substantial reductions of severe drought in the Southeast and Texas and Arizona, severe drought covered 3.85 percent of the nation, down from 6.51 percent at the beginning of the month. Moderate drought coverage dropped from 15.59 to 9.91 percent in November. The number of people experiencing moderate drought or worse conditions was substantially reduced from near 42 million to just over 17 million people.  

Drought Outlook


During December, the Climate Prediction Center forecasts drought to persist in the plains of southeast Colorado, southwest Kansas, and adjacent plains regions of northeast New Mexico and the Oklahoma Panhandle. Drought persistence is also forecast in south-central Kansas and in southwest Oklahoma and adjacent parts of Texas. Drought persistence is forecast in the Florida Panhandle and southern Georgia and in a small region of central Louisiana. Drought development or persistence is forecast in a large region of central and southern Texas. Drought development is also forecast in parts of the southern Florida Peninsula. Drought removal or improvement is forecast in the Four Corners region, and in surrounding regions of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and southeast California. Drought removal or improvement is also forecast in central Alabama and in northern Georgia and western South Carolina.

Temperatures


During November, temperatures were generally near normal or warmer than normal west of the Continental Divide, near or slightly below normal in the Great Plains, and near or below normal in the Midwest and Northeast. The coolest readings, with widespread temperatures from 5 to 10 degrees below normal, occurred from the Lower Mississippi Valley through the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Region. For more specific information, please refer to the regional paragraphs.

Precipitation


During November, precipitation was below normal in much of the Northwest, parts of northern Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, and eastern Texas and Louisiana. Meanwhile, well above normal precipitation occurred in southern California, southern Nevada, much of Utah (particularly southwest), Arizona, and much of New Mexico (particularly central and southwest parts of the state). Well above normal precipitation also occurred in north-central parts of Montana. 

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.

Regional Overviews


Northeast

Precipitation amounts in the Northeast in November were quite variable. The New York City area and adjacent southern Connecticut, New Jersey, south-central Pennsylvania, and parts of Maryland and northeast West Virginia received below-normal precipitation. Northeastern New York and northern Maine received above-normal precipitation for the month. Cooler than normal temperatures occurred throughout the Northeast during November. The coolest temperatures were primarily found in western and northern New York, western Pennsylvania, and northern Vermont, where temperatures primarily ranged from 4 to 8 degrees below normal. The region remained drought free during November.   

Southeast

Below-normal precipitation occurred in southern Alabama and in the central and western Florida Panhandle. Meanwhile, above-normal rainfall fell in southeast Georgia and adjacent parts of northeast Florida. For the most part, cooler than normal temperatures dominated the region in November. Compared to normal, the coolest areas were northwest Alabama, central and eastern South Carolina, and southeast North Carolina, where temperatures were 2 to 8 degrees cooler than normal. All extreme drought was eradicated from the Southeast region (at the end of October, the regional coverage was 1.09 percent across Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina). Severe drought was removed from Florida, southern and far northwestern Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina, remaining only in north-central Georgia. This reduced the regional severe drought coverage from 14.62 to 0.34 percent. Moderate drought was removed from North Carolina, Virginia, and parts of South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, and was added in a small part of south Florida, reducing the regional moderate drought coverage from 40.73 to 9.88 percent.

South

Below-normal precipitation occurred from east-central Texas through Louisiana and Mississippi. The driest areas were in northeast Texas and northwest Louisiana, and in southern Louisiana. Most of the region experienced cooler than normal temperatures during November as well. Extreme drought coverage decreased in Texas, bringing the regional coverage down from 2.35 to 0.34 percent. The severe drought in Tennessee was removed, severe drought decreased in coverage in Texas, and severe drought was expanded in the Oklahoma Panhandle, decreasing the overall regional coverage from 11.58 to 4.74 percent. Moderate drought was completely removed from Tennessee, and regional moderate drought coverage decreased from 26.56 to 19.09 percent.

Midwest

Above-normal precipitation occurred in November in much of Kentucky. Meanwhile, below-normal precipitation was common from southern Iowa eastward into northern Ohio. Cooler than normal temperatures occurred across virtually the entire region in November. Compared to normal, the coldest areas stretched from the Mississippi River Valley eastward into Indiana and Lower Michigan, where temperatures from 4 to 8 degrees below normal were common. Moderate drought, which had covered 3.12 percent of the Midwest, was removed from Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky, such that no moderate drought or abnormal dryness remained at the beginning of December.

High Plains

Dry conditions occurred in November in central and eastern Kansas and in southeast Nebraska, as well as in parts of southeast North Dakota. Wet conditions occurred in parts of central and eastern South Dakota, western Nebraska, northeast and central Colorado, and southeast Wyoming, where several winter storms moved through. Slightly cooler than normal conditions were common across much of the High Plains region, with the coolest conditions (compared to normal) occurring in eastern and southeast Kansas, where temperatures were commonly 4 to 6 degrees colder than normal for November. Extreme drought was added to a narrow strip of southwest Kansas, where severe and moderate drought also expanded. Moderate drought was also added to parts of south-central Kansas. At the end of the month, the new extreme drought covered 0.26 percent of the High Plains region. Severe drought coverage had increased slightly, from 6.18 to 7.08 percent, and moderate drought coverage had slightly increased from 13.35 to 14.37 percent.

West

A wide variance in precipitation occurred in the West during November. Washington, Oregon, and most of Idaho were very dry, particularly from the Cascade Range west in Washington and Oregon. Conditions in parts of western and southwest Montana were mostly dry for November. The northern Rocky Mountains in Colorado, west of the Front Range, were generally dry for November. The area around the Wyoming and Teton ranges in northwestern Wyoming was also generally drier than normal. Well above normal precipitation occurred in southern California, southern Nevada, southern and northeast Utah, Arizona, and most of New Mexico. Wetter than normal conditions also occurred in parts of north-central Montana. Temperature departures during November were mixed, but very generally speaking, temperatures were above normal in California, Arizona, Nevada, southern Idaho, southwest Wyoming, Utah, and western Colorado, with near- or below-normal temperatures occurring elsewhere. Compared to normal, the warmest areas were central and northern California, and the coolest area was north-central Montana. During November, severe drought coverage dropped slightly, from 9.81 to 9.08 percent, and moderate drought coverage dropped from 21.73 to 17.44 percent.

Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico

In Alaska, the moderate drought area near Anchorage was removed, and moderate drought coverage in the Alaska Panhandle was greatly reduced. This brought the coverage of moderate drought down from 3.96 to 0.83 percent in Alaska. The severe drought area in the Alaska Panhandle was removed, bringing the statewide severe drought coverage down from 2 percent to zero. In Hawaii, extreme drought coverage dropped from 1.10 to 0.83 percent, severe drought coverage dropped from 8.71 to 7.41 percent, and moderate drought coverage increased from 14.92 to 16.35 percent. Moderate drought was introduced in southeast Puerto Rico, bringing the coverage there from zero to 15.54 percent.

Movers and Shakers for November 2019
StatePercent Area
Oct. 29, 2019
Percent Area
Nov. 26, 2019
StatusChange
Biggest increase in drought
California2.063.31Moderate1.25
California0.000.01Severe0.01
Colorado58.2461.85Moderate3.61
Colorado27.4132.29Severe4.88
Hawaii14.9216.44Moderate1.52
Hawaii8.719.35Severe0.64
Kansas8.9616.80Moderate7.84
Kansas3.565.53Severe1.97
Nevada8.5320.64Moderate12.11
Nevada0.242.01Severe1.77
New Mexico34.6645.07Moderate10.41
New Mexico8.6717.57Severe8.90
Oklahoma7.6212.58Moderate4.96
Oklahoma0.783.67Severe2.89
Utah62.4064.47Moderate2.07
Utah37.6242.59Severe4.97
Biggest decrease in drought
Alabama39.632.02Moderate37.61
Alaska3.960.83Moderate3.13
Arizona78.3570.86Moderate7.49
Arizona39.5238.52Severe1.00
Florida27.3015.57Moderate11.73
Georgia81.6723.08Moderate58.59
Georgia28.982.20Severe26.78
Hawaii1.101.04Extreme0.06
Louisiana6.782.02Moderate4.76
Mississippi0.570.22Moderate0.35
South Carolina61.4627.45Moderate34.01
Texas46.5532.37Moderate14.18
Texas22.409.98Severe12.42
Texas4.650.53Extreme4.12

November 2019 impact summary: Parts of U.S. emerging from drought, tallying impacts

by Denise Gutzmer

Drought intensified in the West, parts of the southern Great Plains, and South Florida in November, but eased over the eastern U.S., parts of Texas and sections of the Southwest. 

The NDMC added 64 impacts to the Drought Impact Reporter in November, with 21 of those for Texas, seven for Georgia, and four each for Kentucky, Virginia and South Carolina.  Those states experienced lingering drought effects from the summer, as well as ongoing issues.  Texas also had a number of burn bans in effect, as dry conditions contributed to heightened fire risk. 

 

Texas issues drought declarations; agricultural problems continue

Drought improved in Texas, but persisted in some areas, where lingering agricultural and fire impacts from the summer continued.  On Nov. 8, Gov. Abbott declared that exceptional drought conditions posed a threat of imminent disaster in 53 counties, due to ongoing drought and increased fire danger, and authorized the use of available resources of state government and political subdivisions to deal with the disaster. 

Farmers and livestock producers continued to cope with lingering drought concerns.  In many areas, pastures and rangeland were in poor condition, leading to ongoing feeding of supplemental hay or protein, per Texas A&M AgriLife.  Crop planting was delayed for lack of moisture in some areas, while some farmers opted to plant in dry soil with the hope of rain to allow the crop to germinate, according to a Nov. 20 report from Texas A&M AgriLife

 

Georgia drought easing

Rainfall ameliorated drought across much of Georgia in November, but pockets remained in the northeast and south.  The peanut, soybean and cotton crops did not benefit from the rain at the end of their growing season, but pastures benefitted, as did wheat, oats and barley that were being planted, as noted in Saporta Report.  Livestock producers continued to offer supplemental feed with the expectation of depleting their winter hay supplies earlier than normal. 

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that water levels in streams and lakes were still low, including Lake Lanier, which was about 3 feet below normal. 

 

Kentucky drought declarations end

Kentucky’s statewide drought declarations for all 120 counties ended in November, after being issued on Oct. 3 in the wake of record heat and unprecedented dryness in September.  Despite the rain, hay supplies were expected to be short for the winter, as feeding began early after drought dried up pastures and limited hay growth, as noted in a blog of the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.

With the harvest ahead of schedule, soybean yields were generally higher than in the past few years, with quality better than expected, a positive finding after the droughty summer, reported WKMS in Murray, Kentucky.

 

Virginia counting drought effects on agriculture

Autumn rain helped Virginia’s crops, increasing yields after a hot, dry summer.  As of Nov. 3, pastures remained in less than desirable condition, with 35 percent fair, 40 percent poor, and 14 percent very poor according to a USDA NASS report, as listed in Lancaster Farming of Ephrata, Pennsylvania.  State soybean production was estimated at 21.3 million bushels, down 14 percent compared to 2018.  Corn and corn silage crops showed little to no negative effects from drought.

Despite the badly needed rain, some areas suffered considerable losses when harvest was done.  A Virginia Cooperative Extension agent in Powhatan County in the central eastern part of the state determined that crop losses were at least 50 percent or more, as reported in Richmond.com.  Drought hurt the more than 19,000 acres of crops in the county, causing an estimated loss of more than $1 million.  Soybean yields were more adversely affected than corn.  Hay production was down drastically, after poor hay production in 2018.  Farmers began feeding livestock hay about three months early in August and may not have enough for winter.

 

South Carolina crop yields down

End of the season crop reports for a couple of South Carolina counties underscored how drought stressed the crops.  In Calhoun County, crop yields were reduced, according to The Orangeburg Times and Democrat.  In cornfields with sandy soil, the yield was zero.  On heavier soils, yields were low, but not entirely decimated.  Yields were also reduced for cotton and peanuts, where dryland yields were 3,000 to 3,500 pounds per acre, compared to 4,000 pounds in better years.  The soil was so hard that irrigation was needed to harvest peanuts. 

Drought and heat also diminished dryland crop yields across Orangeburg County during the 2019 growing season, per The Orangeburg Times and Democrat.  Some corn was planted late after a cool, wet spring, and then the weather turned hot and dry, affecting crops, grazing and hay production.  Dryland corn yields averaged about 55 bushels per acre statewide, about half of normal yield.  Late-planted corn did better than early-planted corn. 

 

Christmas tree growth slowed by drought

Across the Southeast, a number of tree farms reported drought damage or seedling deaths stemming from drought.  In North Carolina, many seedlings succumbed to the hot, dry summer, as reported by CBS17 in Raleigh.  In Newton County, Georgia, seedlings grew little, per WSB-TV ABC 2 Atlanta.  Similarly in northeast Alabama, trees in Jackson County did not grow the typical one to two feet over the summer, according to WAAY-TV ABC 31 Huntsville.  In Kentucky, 300 seedlings, half of that planted on one farm, died over the summer in Bullitt County, as reported by the Louisville Courier-Journal.

One central Kentucky tree farm was particularly hard-hit.  A Christmas tree farm in Richmond in Madison County had to close for the 2019 Christmas season after the weather took a harsh toll on the trees, per the Lexington Herald-Leader. Newly planted trees worth $2,000 turned brown from summer heat, and even mature trees turned brown and dropped needles. The farm did not have irrigation capability.

Other area tree farms may see the lingering effects of the 2019 drought in subsequent years.

 

Winter wheat affected in Kansas, Oklahoma

The cold, dry weather in central Kansas left many wheat plants underdeveloped and at risk for more winterkill and injury as colder weather neared, as reported in DTN – The Progressive Farmer. Conditions were similar in the Oklahoma Panhandle where little moisture had fallen since mid-July. Wheat planted in mid-September had emerged, but later planted wheat had not yet sprouted and needed rain.

No grazing of green wheat was available in the Oklahoma Panhandle, leaving one livestock producer to put his weaned calves on milo stalks, hoping that would sustain them into the new year. So many weaned calves were sold at auction during the fall that prices were too low to sell.

 

For more details, please see the Drought Impact Reporter.

The images above summarize information from the Drought Impact Reporter.