Drought Continues To Stress West

Drought expands in California; dryness takes more real estate in the Midwest

Published on: Aug 15, 2013

Western pastures saw yet another week of stressful conditions, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, released Thursday.

Drought has expanded significantly in southern California, now with significant portion of the region classified as "extreme drought." Nevada continues with extreme drought conditions this week, which extends into Idaho.

Impacts are beginning to be felt as a result of the continued dry pattern, says NOAA's Michael Brewer. Some portions of the Western U.S. are experiencing the driest January to July on record, and surrounding areas are seeing dried-up rivers, stressed vegetation and possible water restrictions.

Drought expands in California; dryness takes more real estate in the Midwest
Drought expands in California; dryness takes more real estate in the Midwest

Wildfires are also ongoing; the National Interagency Fire Center reported nearly four dozen active, large wildfires on Aug. 14, mostly in California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, Brewer says. Specifically, in southwestern Idaho, the Pony Complex has charred more than 140,000 acres of timber, brush, and grass, while the Elk Fire has consumed nearly 100,000 acres of vegetation.

Pasture and rangeland conditions have declined a bit as a result of changes in the West, says Brad Rippey, USDA meteorologist. The most dramatic increase this week was noted in Washington, where the pastures and ranges jumped from 20% very poor to poor to 34%.

Luckily, the southern portion of the Western U.S. is beginning to come around as portions of New Mexico and eastern Colorado saw improvement this week. Areas of exceptional drought were eased in both states.

Rippey notes that very poor to poor pasture and rangeland has also improved in the Southwest, especially in Arizona where percent of pastures rated very poor to poor dropped from 82% to 58%.

Drought Continues To Stress West

The High Plains and Southern Plains states, hammered particularly hard during the 2012 drought, saw beneficial rains, especially across Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Conversely, Moderate Drought and Abnormal Dryness expanded from eastern Texas into Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. That dryness also extended further into Illinois this week, with areas of short-term dryness holding steady in Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin.

A majority of the land area east of the Mississippi, however, is drought-free.

During the August 15-19, 2013 time period, there is an above-normal chance for precipitation in the Southeast and in areas of the High Plains.  Temperatures are expected to be above-normal in the West, mostly centered on the Rockies, and below-normal in the Southern Plains and into the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic.

From the Aug. 20-25, Rippey says hot weather will build across the country and near to below normal rainfall will be noted in most areas.