Latest Seasonal Assessment -
Improvement is forecast for the area of protracted (though recently improved) drought across the interior Southeast, and for the
smaller drought areas near the Mississippi and in southern Florida. It should be noted, however, that conditions may persist or
even get worse in the near-term across southern Florida, where Lake Okeechobee is once again below the 10-foot level and where
several troublesome wildfires have broken out. In this region, the next few weeks look dry, but above-normal precipitation (over
and above the typical climatological increase in rainfall) is favored for the June-August 2008 period. Farther west, improvement
is also anticipated, particularly in the medium range, across the drought areas in Colorado and the adjacent High Plains, where
June - August is typically one of the wetter 3-month periods during the year. To the South, more limited improvement is
anticipated across the southern High Plains and adjacent areas of the southern Rockies and southern Texas. In these areas,
precipitation indicators for all time scales are either indeterminate or contradictory, but given that this is one of the wetter
times of the year for most areas outside deep south Texas (with the monsoon typically bringing increased rainfall to the
southeastern Rockies and southern High Plains late in the period), there should be more opportunities for at least short-term
relief than would generically be the case. Unfortunately, the outlook is not so optimistic farther to the north and west. The
remaining areas of drought in northern sections of the Plains and Rockies, the Intermountain West, and the Far West are expected
to persist throughout the period, with expansion forecast in northeastern Montana and through all but northernmost California. In
the northern half of this area, June - August is typically one of the wetter times of the year, but the official forecasts favor
near-normal precipitation in the medium range, and below normal precipitation for the ensuing 3 months. Across western Arizona,
Nevada and especially California, this is typically one of the drier times of the year, with a large portion of the Golden State
typically receiving less than 5 percent of their annual precipitation total during June - August. This makes drought-relieving
rainfall unlikely, and with an early end to the wet season observed across California, development was forecast since impacts from
the typically dry summer should be evidenced earlier and more robustly than is typical. Finally, the small area of drought in
Hawaii is expected to persist, and given the dry seasonal forecast issued throughout the state, drought should develop across
central Maui and northwestern parts of the Big Island, where conditions approaching moderate drought are already in place.
Tools used in the Drought Outlook included the
official CPC precipitation outlook for June 2008 and the long lead forecast for June - August
2008, the four-month drought termination and amelioration probabilities, various medium- and short-range forecasts and models
such as the 6-10 day and 8-14 day forecasts, the soil moisture tools based on the GFS model and the
Constructed Analogue on Soil moisture, the CFS seasonal precipitation forecasts, climatology, and to some extent La Niña
La Niña conditions continue across most of the equatorial
Pacific Ocean, though weaker than earlier this year. In addition, the influence of La Niña on sensible weather across the
United States is typically on the wane from mid-May through August. For this reason, the Drought Outlook continues its trend
of relying less and less on La Niña composites and instead the current outlook is based primarily on climatological
considerations, antecedent conditions, the official medium- and long-range outlooks through August 2008, and the apparent
potential for drought-related impacts to change, for better or worse, during the 3.5 month forecast period.
Short- and medium-range forecasts all indicate near or wetter than
normal across the interior Southeast, but longer-term outlooks favor neither above- nor below-normal precipitation, and with
the seasonal increase in temperatures comes an increase in water demand by residential, commercial, and agricultural
interests, as well as an increase in soil moisture usage by all manner of plants, and an increase in evaporative water losses.
On the other hand, heavy showers and thunderstorms (difficult to forecast very far in advance) can deliver large amounts of
precipitation quite quickly in this region during summer. Based primarily on the short- and medium-range forecasts, and the
potential for local to widespread heavy precipitation during this time of year, drought improvement is forecast for the
region, but water usage and evaporative considerations during this warmest time of the year make the forecast anything but a
sure bet. In addition, the protracted nature of the hydrologic drought means that base streamflows and large reservoirs will
be relatively difficult to pull closer to normal.
Moderate precipitation during the medium range and official
forecasts favoring wetter than normal June - August conditions were the primary reasons behind the improvement forecast for
the drought area in the Mississippi Delta and adjacent locations. In addition, dryness has not been entrenched for as long a
time as in the interior Southeast. However, medium range outlooks are drier here than in the larger drought area off to the
northeast, and the inherent uncertainty in 3-month forecasts, along with the same water usage and evaporative considerations
as in the interior Southeast, brings down confidence in the forecast somewhat.
Southern Florida has a good chance for drought-related impacts
actually to worsen over the next few weeks, but official forecasts favoring above-normal June - August 2008 precipitation, in
addition to the rather pronounced climatological increase in precipitation that occurs during June - August, make this
forecast a relatively confident one.
Medium-range forecasts favoring wetness, along with the fact that
June - August tends to be one of the wetter times of the year, led to the forecast for drought improvement in eastern
Colorado and nearby sections of the High Plains. However, even the models and indicators on which the medium-range forecasts
are based were rife with uncertainty, and the 3-month forecast through August is indeterminate.
In the southern High Plains and adjacent New Mexico, southeastern
Arizona, and southern Texas, most forecasts and indicators are weak or indeterminate, and in some cases contradictory.
Neither the medium- nor long-range forecasts substantially favor drier or wetter than normal conditions. Some improvement is
forecast because June - August based on the fact that this is one of the climatologically wetter times of the year in the
region, in addition to the fact that monsoonal rainfall should begin to overspread New Mexico and southeastern Arizona late
in the period, though the strength of the monsoon is another source of uncertainty.
This is one of the wetter times of the year for the northern and
west-central Plains while June - August tends to be a rather typical 3-month period (relative to other 3-month periods
during the year) in the northern and central Rockies. Generally near- to below-normal precipitation is anticipated in these
areas for the last half of May, and June - August 2008 outlooks favor below normal precipitation in these areas. As a result,
drought is expected to persist where it already exists, with expansion expected into the remaining areas of northeastern
Montana. Still, the relative wetness of this time of year, and the inherent uncertainty of precipitation in mountainous
regions, precludes this forecast from being an exceptionally confident one.
Across the drought areas in the Intermountain West, Great Basin,
and West Coast states, conditions are expected to persist given little or no precipitation forecast in the medium range, and
the fact that June - August tends to be one of the regions drier times of the year, especially across California. Since the
last two months have been exceedingly dry and the mid-May through August 2008 period should be quite dry for climatological
reasons alone, drought is expected to expand through all but northernmost California by the end of the forecast period.
Confidence in this scenario is enhanced by the strength of the climatological signal, and the fact that dryness-related
impacts are already on the increase in much of the state.
In Hawaii, the odds favor drier than normal weather statewide for
June - August 2008, which should keep the drought in western Molokai intact through the period. To some extent, drought
development possibilities appear enhanced statewide for the forecast period since the entire state is already assessed as
"abnormally dry" by the Drought Monitor, and the odds favor below-normal summer precipitation statewide. However, development
probabilities seem particularly strong in central Maui and northwestern sections of the Big Island, where impacts and
precipitation deficits indicate that conditions are already teetering on the brink of drought.