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Drought and Climate for July 2019: Record warmth and drought expand in Alaska; drought persists in Pacific Northwest

by Claire Shield

Drought


During July, moderate drought coverage more than doubled, increasing 3.68 percentage points to 6.93 percent, while severe drought coverage nearly doubled, increasing from 0.77 percent to 1.31 percent. The increases in coverage were primarily due to the introduction and expansion of drought and abnormal dryness in a large portion of Alaska. Extreme drought coverage (all of which was in Alaska and Hawaii) remained at 0.14 percent during the month. The country remained free of exceptional drought. Although the areal coverage of drought increased, the population within moderate drought decreased from 12.3 million to 11.3 million. The population within severe drought decreased from 2.1 million to 1.6 million.

Drought Outlook


Throughout August, drought is expected to persist and expand slightly in the Pacific Northwest and southeast Alaska.  Drought persistence is also expected in current areas of drought in Hawaii, North Dakota, Texas and the Southeast.  New areas of drought are likely to develop throughout much of Texas and in parts of the Midwest. Drought improvement and removal is likely in New Mexico, northern Alaska, and Puerto Rico.

Temperatures


Temperatures generally ranged from near normal to 4 degrees below normal in the majority of the West, Plains, and South, while temperatures ranged from near normal to 4 degrees above normal in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, western Texas, the Midwest, the Northeast, Virginia, and the Carolinas. 

Precipitation


Most of the country was relatively dry during July, seeing only 5 to 70 percent of normal precipitation. Exceptions were found in small pockets of the West, in a swath extending from Montana through the Dakotas and central Nebraska and into Minnesota and Wisconsin, along the Lower Mississippi, and in pockets of the Southeast and Northeast where totals ranged from 100 to 400 percent of normal. As a whole, though, precipitation in the CONUS in July was near normal.

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 ranged from near normal to 200 percent of normal in the majority of Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, and in eastern Connecticut, eastern Massachusetts, southeastern Maine, and pockets of New York. The driest conditions were found in pockets of West Virginia, Delaware, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Maine, where precipitation was only 25 to 50 percent of normal. The remainder of the region saw smaller precipitation deficits. Temperatures were primarily 2 to 4 degrees above normal throughout the entire region, although some small areas saw temperatures within a degree of normal and others as much as 5 degrees above normal.  A majority of the states in the region saw temperatures that ranked within the 10 warmest on record. The region remained free of drought and dryness throughout the month with the exception of a small area of abnormal dryness in Connecticut and Massachusetts during the week of July 16.

Southeast

During July, drier than normal conditions were found in most of Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia (25 to 90 percent of normal precipitation). Meanwhile, far northern Alabama, pockets of southern Georgia, much of Florida, and pockets of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia saw precipitation ranging from 100 to 200 percent of normal. Temperatures ranged from 2 degrees below normal to 1 degree above normal in much of Alabama, southern Georgia, northern Florida, and small pockets of the Carolinas while temperatures ranged from 1 to 3 degrees above normal in much of the remainder of the region. However, small pockets of southern Alabama, eastern North Carolina, and Virginia saw temperatures as much as 4 degrees above normal. Florida saw its 8th warmest July on record and North Carolina saw its 11th warmest. Pockets of drought changed and shifted slightly over the course of the month. By the end of the month, moderate drought coverage decreased 1.32 percentage points to 5.69 percent and severe drought coverage doubled, ending up at 0.86 percent. The region remained free of extreme and exceptional drought.

South

The eastern halves of Louisiana and Arkansas, as well as Mississippi and Tennessee, saw abundant precipitation ranging from 100 to 300 percent of normal. On the other hand, much of western Louisiana, western Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma saw only 5 to 50 percent of normal precipitation. Temperatures ranged between 3 degrees below normal and 1 degree above normal in much of the region, but temperatures were 1 to 5 degrees above normal in western Texas and pockets of Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. With the lack of precipitation in much of the region, dryness and drought was introduced in areas of western Texas and Oklahoma. Moderate drought coverage increased from 0.68 to 2.93 percent and severe drought increased from 0.03 percent to 0.21 percent.

Midwest

Southern and western Minnesota, most of Wisconsin, and pockets scattered throughout the remainder of the region saw precipitation between 100 and 200 percent of normal. The driest conditions were found in pockets of Missouri, northern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky, and in large areas of Iowa, Illinois and Indiana where precipitation was 25 to 70 percent of normal. Much of the region saw above-normal temperatures (1 to 4 degrees above normal), with Ohio seeing its 11th warmest July on record. Parts of Minnesota and Kentucky, far western Iowa, southern Missouri, and southern Illinois, however, saw temperatures as much as 1 to 2 degrees below normal. The region remained free of drought during July, but abnormal dryness was introduced in a swath from Iowa into Indiana, and in pockets of Michigan.

High Plains

Precipitation totals ranging from 100 to more than 300 percent of normal were found in northeast Wyoming, parts of North Dakota, much of South Dakota, central Nebraska, and small pockets of Colorado and Kansas. South Dakota even saw its 3rd wettest July on record. Otherwise, conditions were relatively dry, with precipitation ranging from 25 to 70 percent in the remainder of the region. Temperatures were generally within two degrees of normal during July. Temperatures were as much as 4 degrees above normal in parts of Colorado, southern Wyoming, eastern South Dakota, and northeast North Dakota, and as much as 4 degrees below normal in pockets of northern Wyoming, the western Dakotas, western Nebraska, and southern Kansas. The area of drought in North Dakota shrank during the month, leaving only 0.25 percent of the region in moderate drought by the end of the month compared to 1.48 percent at the beginning of July. Severe drought was completely removed from the region. Abnormal dryness was added to parts of Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas.

West

Most of the region saw below-normal precipitation ranging from 2 to 50 percent of normal.  However, because summer is normally relatively dry for most of the West, precipitation deficits were less than 1 inch for most areas, with the exception of pockets of Idaho, Montana, Arizona, and New Mexico where deficits were as much as 2-3 inches. Temperatures were generally within 2 degrees of normal throughout the region, although temperatures were as much as 2 to 6 degrees below normal in the northern tier of the region and as much as 2 to 6 degrees above normal in the southern half of the region. With the warm temperatures, New Mexico saw its 6th warmest July on record. Drought areas were relatively static throughout the month, with moderate drought coverage increasing from 5.53 percent to 6.01 percent and severe drought coverage decreasing from 1.24 percent to 0.77 percent. Abnormal dryness was introduced in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado.

Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico

Drought coverage increased dramatically in Alaska in July. Moderate drought coverage increased from 2.78 to 24.47 percent of the state and severe drought coverage increased from 1.65 to 5.79 percent. Temperatures were as much as 6 to 8 degrees above normal during July and many parts of the state saw their warmest July since recordkeeping began in 1925. Hundreds of wildfires were reported as well.

In Hawaii, moderate drought coverage decreased from 43.30 percent to 28.69 percent, but severe drought increased 0.37 percentage points to 4.13 percent and extreme drought increased 0.30 percentage points to 1.24 percent.

Moderate drought coverage in Puerto Rico decreased from 31.84 to 23.70 percent while severe drought coverage increased from 5.80 to 13.08 percent.

Movers and Shakers for July 2019
StatePercent Area
Jun. 25, 2019
Percent Area
Jul. 30, 2019
StatusChange
Biggest increase in drought
Alabama7.9313.41Moderate5.48
Alabama2.594.27Severe1.68
Alaska2.7824.47Moderate21.69
Alaska1.655.79Severe4.14
Florida0.220.44Severe0.22
Hawaii0.941.24Extreme0.30
Idaho4.804.87Moderate0.07
Oregon8.9110.83Moderate1.92
Texas1.934.31Moderate2.38
Texas0.230.42Severe0.19
Washington54.8460.87Moderate6.03
Biggest decrease in drought
Florida6.671.51Moderate5.16
Georgia6.124.25Moderate1.87
Hawaii48.0828.69Moderate19.39
Hawaii5.644.13Severe1.51
North Carolina10.498.91Moderate1.58
North Dakota14.551.81Moderate12.74
South Carolina5.775.40Moderate0.37
Washington17.6813.58Severe4.10
Puerto Rico32.2323.70Moderate8.53

July 2019 impact summary: Midwest, southern Plains turning dry again, affecting crops

by Denise Gutzmer

Drought expanded in the Pacific Northwest and developed in parts of the Midwest and southern Plains during July, the hottest month ever recorded, as global temperatures slightly exceeded the previous July record set in 2016.  Heat and dry conditions took a toll on summer crops, significantly contributing to the 76 impacts added to the Drought Impact Reporter in July.  Texas had 15 impacts, documenting agricultural issues and burn bans as the fire danger rose.  North Carolina, Washington and Alaska followed with 12, 12, and 11 impacts, respectively, describing crop damage and short water supplies.

July confirmed as hottest month recorded, by Isabelle Gerretsen, CNN, Aug. 5, 2019

 

Texas ag concerns growing

Texas began July with just a few spots of abnormal dryness, but those expanded as the month progressed.  Rangelands and pastures in the southwest were affected early in the month, but similar concerns became more widespread.  In parts of far west and south Texas, cattle producers continued to haul water and offer supplemental feed to cattle as drought depleted natural food and water sources.  

County commissioners began enacting burn bans in Texas in the latter part of July as conditions became drier and warranted caution with fire to reduce the likelihood of wildfires. 

Texas Crop and Weather Report - July 9, 2019, by Adam Russell, North Texas e-News (Fannin, Texas), July 9, 2019

Texas Crop and Weather Report – July 16, 2019, by Adam Russell, AgriLife Today (Bryan, Texas), July 16, 2019

Texas Crop and Weather Report – July 22, 2019, by Adam Russell, AgriLife Today (Bryan, Texas), July 23, 2019

Texas Crop and Weather Report – July 30, 2019, by Adam Russell, AgriLife Today (Bryan, Texas), July 30, 2019

 

Eastern North Carolina crops stunted, lost

Eastern North Carolina remained dry, with crop damage occurring as the rain stayed away.  In some areas, corn stopped growing.  Vegetables were sunburned, making them less marketable.  A Carteret County farmer lost yield on several varieties of sweet corn, possibly 50 percent, costing him tens of thousands of dollars in upfront costs.

Drought conditions in Pender County damaged crops, especially corn.  Some of the corn was about two feet shorter than normal, and some farmers lost half of their corn crop. Other crops were also stunted because of heat and scarce rain. 

In Pitt County, the field corn was partially to completely lost in some fields.  Sweet potatoes, soybeans, tobacco, peanuts and cotton were also affected by the hot, dry weather as the growth of all crops was slowed.  As of mid-July, peanuts had not grown enough to close the gaps between the rows, as the plants were smaller than usual.  Cotton plants were also shorter than normal.

ENC Farmers Losing Crops To Drought, by Jared Brumbaugh, Public Radio East (New Bern, North Carolina), July 12, 2019

Major Crop Growth Stunted Due to Drought Conditions, by Spectrum News (Wilmington, North Carolina), July 10, 2019

Pitt County crops hit hard by hot, dry weather, by Karen Eckert, Greenville Daily Reflector (North Carolina), July 13, 2019

 

Washington water supplies short

Water supplies were short in parts of Washington because of low reservoir carryover from the fall, poor winter precipitation and a warm spring.  Drought emergencies remained in effect for 27 watersheds, mostly in the western part of the state. 

In the Yakima River basin in southern Washington, junior water rights holders got 67 percent of a full supply for irrigation after the Bureau of Reclamation updated its forecast on July 3.  Senior water rights holders still received a full allotment. 

The lack of water and ongoing impacts from the 2015 drought meant fewer fish in the Upper and Lower Yakima and Naches watersheds.  The Department of Ecology was monitoring the water levels and temperatures and were noticing fewer fish migrating up the Yakima Basin, due to higher water temperatures. 

Forecast: Water supply for junior water rights holders now at 67%, by Yakima Herald-Republic (Washington), July 3, 2019

Fish and Wildlife helping fish survive drought, by Trisha McCauley, KIMA CBS 29 (Yakima, Washington), July 2, 2019

Fish were also in trouble in Kitsap County in northwest Washington.  The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife closed fishing in the Chehalis River and its tributaries to protect spring chinook salmon, as low flows threaten the fish.

Drought continues with fear of fire throughout Western Washington, by Christopher Dunagan, Kitsap Sun (Bremerton, Washington), July 5, 2019

 

Alaska fires, water supplies and agriculture

Drought and an overwhelming number of wildfires prompted numerous burn bans in Alaska for the Fourth of July.  Because of the hot, dry weather and elevated fire danger, fireworks were banned statewide as the month began.  Some communities also canceled fireworks displays. 

The drought also meant water conservation was needed.  Residents of Juneau were asked to conserve water as demand slightly exceeded production capacity during the hot, dry weather.  People were asked to curb water use for garden watering and vehicle and boat washing. 

Kenai Peninsula farmers had to irrigate their crops more frequently, and some wells went dry.  Some of the crops grown on the Kenai Peninsula include peonies, vegetables and hay.

Bans, cancellations and where to see fireworks in Alaska this Independence Day, by Kayla Heffner, KTVA (Anchorage, Alaska), July 1, 2019

Juneau residents asked to conserve water as dry conditions persist, by Adelyn Baxter, KTOO Public Media (Juneau, Alaska), July 3, 2019

Moderate drought hits the Kenai Peninsula, by Renee Gross, KBBI-AM 890 Homer (Alaska), July 24, 2019

 

Midwest crops need rain

The Midwest and other parts of the U.S. had excessively wet springs, which made fields too wet for farmers to plant, delaying or even preventing planting.  Crops’ root systems did not need to grow deep to access water, leaving plants with shallow roots, which did not serve them well when hotter, drier weather arrived.  Soil compaction was also an issue.  During July, despite the wet spring and flooding, soils began to dry out, leaving Midwestern farmers wishing for rain again. 

 

For more details, see the Drought Impact Reporter.

The images above summarize information from the Drought Impact Reporter.