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Climate Prediction Center


December 2013 - February 2014


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Latest Seasonal Assessment - During the past 30 days, much of the lower 48 States observed subnormal precipitation. The largest deficits (2 to 4 inches) accumulated from the central Gulf Coast northeastward into coastal New England, promoting the expansion of D0 in parts of the Southeast, mid-Atlantic, and New England, including some areas of D1 from northern New Jersey northward into southeastern Maine. Below normal precipitation also occurred along the West Coast, in the Southwest, and the southern and northern Plains. In contrast, surplus precipitation fell on eastern Texas, the central Plains, most of the Midwest and Great Lakes region, and parts of the Rockies, resulting in drought improvement in the first 3 regions. Unfortunately, severe weather with numerous tornadoes struck the Midwest on Nov. 17, with Illinois especially hard-hit. Since October 21, temperatures have averaged below normal in the eastern half of the Nation and above normal in the West. In Hawaii, enhanced windward showers have led to some drought relief on Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island while October’s wet and mild weather continued into November across most of Alaska, leading to a reduction of D1 in central sections.

Additional short-term drought improvement is possible for eastern Texas and the lower Mississippi Valley as an upper-air disturbance tracks eastward out of the Southwest and taps Gulf moisture. Although this storm will likely bring surplus precipitation to many areas designated as Development or Persistence across the southern tier of States, the anticipated monthly and seasonal precipitation tilt toward abnormal dryness, plus 60- and 90-day shortages, supports development or persistence of drought (at least D1) in the Southwest and Southeast by the end of February 2014. In the Northeast, although long-term (more than 6-months) surpluses exist, short-term (3-month) deficits of 6 to 9 inches have slowly spread D0 and D1. With additional dry weather expected before the ground freezes, D1 is expected to increase. Similarly in the Midwest, expected short-term dryness may increase D1 in northeastern Missouri/western Illinois before the ground freezes. Persistence is a good bet in the Plains as the winter months are climatologically dry. In the West, with the monthly and seasonal precipitation outlooks tilting toward above median precipitation in the northern Rockies and High Plains, improvement was made to the northern edges of the drought. In northern California, conflicting tools led to EC (Equal Chances) in both the monthly and seasonal precipitation outlooks; however, for the winter, there was some hint of a slow start to the rainy season (Dec) followed by wetness later on, hence the slight seasonal improvement there. The odds favored above median winter rainfall and some improvement in Hawaii while drought was recently trimmed back in central Alaska after a wet October and early November. The remaining Alaskan D1 area had larger long-term deficits and less short-term precipitation, and will likely persist into the spring.

Discussion for the Seasonal Drought Outlook

Tools used in the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook (SDO) included the official CPC temperature and precipitation outlooks for December 2013, the long lead forecast for December 2013 - February 2014, various short- and medium-range forecasts and models such as the 5-day and 7-day precipitation totals from the Weather Prediction Center, 6-10 day and 8-14 day CPC forecasts, the NAEFS precipitation outlooks, the soil moisture tools based on the Constructed Analog on Soil (CAS) moisture, dynamical models (CFSv2, NMME, and IMME), the 384-hour total precipitation forecasts from several runs of the GFS, the four-month Palmer drought termination and amelioration probabilities, DJF climatology, and initial conditions. ENSO conditions continue to be and are forecast to remain neutral.

The 30-day ACIS-based precipitation was less than 50 percent of normal across the central Gulf and Atlantic Coast States (from Alabama northeastward into Maine, and southern Florida). Deficits of 4 to 8 inches have accumulated during the past 90-days, especially in the Southeast and lower New England. The current 28-day USGS averaged stream flow values have begun to drop into the below normal (<25th percentile) category in the Southeast, and are below to much below normal (<10th percentile) in central North Carolina/southern Virginia and from New Jersey into southern New Hampshire. As a result, the latest Drought Monitor has increased D0 across the region, and expanded D1 in New England. Impacts could have been worse except that the short-term dryness has been offset by longer-term (6-month) surpluses, lower temperatures, and the end of the growing season. Little or no precipitation is forecast for the upcoming 5-days, however, precipitation is expected to begin spreading northeastward from the western Gulf during days 6 and 7, with odds for above median precipitation in the 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks. Further complicating the situation is that once the ground freezes in northern areas, moisture conditions generally remain locked in place until the spring thaw. Therefore, the next several weeks will be critical as to whether or not further deterioration or improvement will occur in New England – with the odds slightly favoring drier weather here. Farther south, with general troughing over the East during late November plus the normal end of the Atlantic hurricane season fast approaching (Nov. 30), the chances for significant moisture from any tropical system are unlikely over the southeastern U.S. Lastly, the CPC December outlook has slight chances for below median precipitation along the southern Atlantic Coast while the seasonal outlook (Dec-Feb) depicts probabilities above 40-percent for below-median precipitation. Therefore, drought development is possible from the central Gulf Coast northeastward into Virginia, in eastern Florida, and southern New England, where 90-day deficits are the highest, D0 already exists, and stream flows continue to slowly drop.
Forecast confidence for the central Gulf and Atlantic Coast States are low-moderate (Northeast) to moderate (Southeast).

Above normal precipitation fell on most of the Midwest and Great Lakes region since Oct. 21, providing some drought relief. Unfortunately, some of the precipitation was accompanied by severe weather on Nov. 17, with Illinois especially hard-hit with numerous tornadoes. In contrast, under half of normal precipitation was observed over the northern Great Plains and upper Midwest (less than an inch); however, late autumn and winter are climatologically dry for the upper Mississippi Valley, so accumulated deficits were rather small. Similar to New England, the soils, streams, and lakes will eventually freeze as the winter progresses, so the amount of precipitation during the next several weeks will be influential toward impacting the drought. Therefore, in the absence of well above normal precipitation, it is difficult to realize significant drought improvements during this period. Additional light accumulations, generally under a half inch, are anticipated during the upcoming 7-days across most of the region, except for somewhat heavier totals (0.5-2 inches) in southern Missouri. The CPC 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks indicate enhanced chances of below-median precipitation over the Midwest. The CPC monthly and seasonal outlooks both maintain equal chances for below, near, or above-median precipitation. But with similar conditions to surrounding D1 areas and expected minimal precipitation the next several weeks, development was added to northeastern Missouri and western Illinois. Elsewhere, based on the time of year climatology, persistence is forecasted for lingering drought areas in Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin.
Forecast confidence for the upper and middle Mississippi Valley is moderate.

During the previous 30 days, surplus rains overspread eastern Texas and western Louisiana, but missed areas to the east. The moisture brought localized drought relief to parts of eastern Texas and western Louisiana, but increasing 90-day deficits expanded D0 across southern Arkansas, central Mississippi, and central Louisiana. During the next 7 days as a slow-moving upper-air disturbance tracks eastward out of the Southwest, it will tap Gulf moisture and drop significant rains (2-4 inches) on the western and central Gulf Coast states, and northward into southern Missouri. The CPC 6-10 and 8-14 outlooks tilt the odds towards above-median rainfall, indicating a continuation of the wet pattern during the remainder of November. The CPC official monthly and seasonal outlooks generally maintain equal chances for below, near, or above-median precipitation, although the December outlook hints at slight odds for below-median precipitation in western areas. Climatological rainfall slightly increases during the winter months across the lower Mississippi Valley as the mid-latitude storm track shifts southwards towards the Gulf Coast. Given the wet short-term forecast and climatology, drought improvement is anticipated over the lower Mississippi Valley.
Forecast confidence for the lower Mississippi Valley is moderate-high.

During the previous 30 days, surplus rains fell across eastern, southwestern, and extreme southern Texas, easing drought conditions. In contrast, the remainder of the state measured subnormal rainfall. Over the past 3-months, the largest deficits (3 to 6 inches) have accumulated in the Panhandle and in the Red River Valley, and drought persisted or intensified. Rainfall was spottier in Oklahoma, but southern and eastern Kansas recorded 2 to 6 inches, or 1.5 to 3 times above normal. Above normal precipitation also fell on eastern Nebraska. Late autumn and winter months are climatologically dry across the Plains, making significant reductions in drought less likely during this period. However, a slow-moving storm tracking across the southern tier of states during the next 7 days is expected to drop significant precipitation on eastern sections of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, possibly easing drought along the Plains eastern drought area. The CPC 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks tilt the odds towards abnormal wetness across the southern two-thirds of Texas, with abnormal dryness more likely over the remainder of the southern and central Plains. The CPC monthly outlook for December indicates enhanced chances for below-median precipitation across the southern Plains, and the winter outlook indicates favorable odds for below-median precipitation and above-normal temperatures across western Texas, the Oklahoma Panhandle, and New Mexico. Based on the dry climatology and outlooks, therefore, drought persistence is forecast for the central and southern High Plains, with areas of development possible across southwestern Texas, western Oklahoma, and southern New Mexico. In contrast, the near term rainfall is forecast to continue improving drought conditions across parts of eastern Texas, particularly in areas that have shallower drought conditions due to recent rains and short-term surpluses.
Forecast confidence for the central and southern Plains is moderate.

After an early October storm brought widespread heavy precipitation to the northern Rockies and adjacent Plains, more tranquil conditions have occurred since then. Since Oct. 21, above normal precipitation was limited to northern Montana and western Wyoming. Fortunately, this early October precipitation eased drought conditions across Wyoming, with only lingering long-term D0 and a small D1 area left. Little or no precipitation is forecast during the upcoming 7-day period across Montana and the Dakotas, while Wyoming can expect light to moderate totals (0.5 to 1.5 inches). The CPC 6-10 day outlook favors dry weather, but the 8-14 day outlook indicates above-median precipitation for Montana and the Dakotas. Climatologically, the winter months are normally dry in the northern High Plains, but normal do increase as one travels west (northern Rockies). Additionally, the CPC monthly and seasonal outlooks tilt the odds towards above-median precipitation across the northern Rockies and northern Plains. Based on the wet guidance in the medium and long range, and additionally the fairly shallow drought conditions in Wyoming and parts of Idaho (surpluses at 60- and 90-days), drought improvement or removal is forecast.
Forecast confidence for the northern Rockies and northern High Plains is moderate-high.

Mostly dry weather dominated the southwestern U.S. as the monsoon season came to a close in mid-September. Portions of southern California, western Arizona, and southern Nevada received little or no rainfall the past 30 days, while subnormal precipitation was common across the region the past 60 days. The lone exception with surplus 2-month rainfall was northern New Mexico. As an upper-air low develops in the Southwest during the next 5 days, significant precipitation (1 to 2 inches, locally to 5 inches) is forecased for most of Arizona, southern California, southern Utah, southern Colorado, and western New Mexico. Then, during the 6-10 and 8-14 day periods, the probabilities call for near to above median precipitation. In contrast, the CPC seasonal outlook tilts the odds toward below-median precipitation across much of New Mexico and Arizona, while the December outlook calls for below-median values in eastern New Mexico (and equal chances elsewhere). Although the short-term forecast favors some improvement, the existing short term dryness, long-term hydrological drought impacts, and the monthly and seasonal outlooks skew the forecast toward persistence of existing drought areas, with additional development possible over parts of New Mexico and Arizona at the end of February 2014.
Forecast confidence for the Southwest is moderate.

California, Oregon, and Washington receive a significant percentage of their annual precipitation during the winter months due to Pacific winter storm activity. Therefore, precipitation anomalies during this period play a large role in the amelioration or development of drought. Light precipitation is forecast during the upcoming 7-days for the Pacific Coast, with some moderate amounts (an inch) possible in the Sierra Nevada and southeastern California. The CPC 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks indicate enhanced odds for below-median precipitation during the remainder of November. Several climate models forecast abnormal dryness during December, but the seasonal signal becomes mixed, with some models suggesting above normal precipitation later in the winter period (e.g. January and February). The CPC monthly and seasonal outlooks both maintain equal chances for below, near, or above-median precipitation; therefore this outlook is based primarily on the impact of climatological rainfall, and the enhanced odds for above-median monthly and seasonal precipitation in the northern Rockies and Plains. Based upon this, some reduction in drought is possible across northwestern California and southern Oregon, and into the north-central Rockies. The improvement areas of the outlook were not extended into Sierra Nevada due to the possibility of a slow start to the winter wet season.
Forecast confidence for the Pacific Coast States is moderate.

Precipitation rates normally drop during the autumn months in interior Alaska as cold, dry Arctic air masses dominate, but to date the opposite conditions have prevailed. A very wet and mild October lingered into November, easing D1 conditions across central Alaska by mid-November. The easternmost D1 area remained as deficits were higher and recent precipitation was lower. As this region enters winter, the remaining D1 should persist as colder and drier air should envelop the interior. Therefore, drought persistence is forecast during the December through February period.
Forecast confidence for Alaska is high.

Precipitation rates increase during the winter months across Hawaii due to influence from mid-latitude winter storms. With recent rainfall increasing along the windward sides, some drought relief has occurred. The CPC winter outlook tilts the odds toward above-median rainfall. Precipitation amounts near or above normal across the islands would ease or erase existing drought conditions. Therefore, improvement or removal is indicated in this outlook.
Forecast confidence for Hawaii is high.

NOAA/ National Weather Service
NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction
Climate Prediction Center
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Page Author: Climate Prediction Center Internet Team
Page last modified: November 21, 2013
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