Drought Monitor: Cali Unchanged, Small Degradations in the Plains

California sees no changes this Drought Monitor week while winter wheat areas see small degradations

Published on: Mar 13, 2014

Across the western U.S., drought continues relatively unchanged this week. California, plagued by continued extreme and exceptional drought through the central region, shows no improvement.

Major winter wheat growing areas in general saw little change as well, though parts of northern Texas did see a one category degradation, as did a pocket of central Nebraska. Western Kansas was unchanged, while sliver of drought in Oklahoma moved northward into the state.

Plains
The below normal precipitation in the Central Plains continued for another week. Between 0.25 and 1.0 inch of precipitation was measured from central Oklahoma northeastward into south Missouri, and in the central High Plains near the Rockies; otherwise, a few tenths of an inch fell, at best, says this week's U.S. Drought Monitor author Richard Tinker of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

California sees no changes this Drought Monitor week while winter wheat areas see small degradations
California sees no changes this Drought Monitor week while winter wheat areas see small degradations

Over the past 60 days, precipitation totaled 3 to 6 inches less than normal across central and east Oklahoma, southeast Kansas, north and west Arkansas, and south Missouri. Both 60- and 90-day amounts are only half of normal at best across the south-central Plains approaching the Red River Valley and Texas.

Impacts resulting from this dryness are increasing. Low reservoir levels are common from the Texas Panhandle into central parts of the state, and short surface moisture is beginning to affect early-planted crops.

Statewide across Oklahoma, 40% to 45% of oats, canola, and rangelands are in poor or very poor condition, as is roughly 30% of rye and wheat, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. In Texas, more than half of all rangelands are starting the season in poor to very poor condition.

Upper, Middle Mississippi Valley
Between 0.5 and 1.0 inch of precipitation fell on a swath from southwest Minnesota eastward into southern Wisconsin while other areas received only a few tenths of an inch, if any, Tinker reports. For areas north of southern Iowa, the drought assessment has been static awaiting spring snowmelt progress. From southern Iowa into north Missouri and west Illinois, dryness did prompt some regions of D0 and D1 expansion.

Rockies
About a half inch to locally 2.5 inches of precipitation fell on the higher elevations in central and western Colorado, and central Utah. A few tenths of an inch fell on much of Wyoming, north New Mexico, and east-central Arizona, and little or none fell elsewhere.

Improvement was introduced in parts of Colorado and Wyoming, where relatively wet patterns have been established for some time now. Conditions changed little elsewhere.

A lack of water availability isn't a widespread issue, Tinker says, but a few smaller systems are struggling to keep water flowing.

The West
Heavy precipitation again pelted the northwestern and northeastern parts of this region, but dryness persisted farther south. Drought remained in the exceptional range in parts of California and northeast Nevada. From Oregon southward, obvious relief was not as widespread and snowpack remained very low.

In central and northern Idaho and some areas in nearby Washington and Oregon, 2 to 6 inches of precipitation was common. Conditions have improved in these regions significantly in the past few weeks, thus broad areas of improvement were introduced.

Small-scale water supply systems serving at least 17 California communities are struggling to keep water flowing out of taps. As of March 6, the four large reservoirs on the periphery of the southern half of the San Joaquin Valley held 35% to 50% of their normal quantity for the date while reservoirs farther north along the central California Valley held 55% to 75% of normal, Tinker reports.

For the full report, visit the U.S. Drought Monitor website.

Drought Monitor: Cali Unchanged, Small Degradations in the Plains

Source: U.S. Drought Monitor Richard Tinker, NOAA/NWS/NCEP/CPC