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Climate Prediction Center


January - March 2014


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Latest Seasonal Assessment - During the past month, drought conditions improved across parts of the Intermountain West, Rockies, southern Plains, lower Mississippi Valley, upper Midwest, mid-Atlantic, and Northeast. In most of these areas, the trend toward improvement is not expected to continue through the first 3 months of 2014, and in fact some drought development (or re-development) is anticipated in portions of the central and southern Rockies and the Southwest. Drought is expected to be a continuing or worsening concern along the West Coast and in the Southeast.

A large storm system in the 7 days before Christmas should bring 1 to several inches of precipitation from the southern High Plains northeastward through parts of the Midwest and the Northeast, setting the stage for drought improvement or removal in the scattered areas of drought across eastern Texas, eastern Missouri, central Illinois, and the Northeast. In addition to effects from this system, surface moisture – whether in soils and water sources or locked up in snowpack – usually increases in these regions during January – March.

Improvement is also expected in central Idaho and adjacent areas, where the January outlook favors above-normal precipitation after relatively dry weather through the end of December. Elsewhere, the trend toward decreasing drought should continue in Alaska, and with odds significantly favoring above-normal rainfall in Hawaii for January and January - March, continued slow improvement is anticipated there.

In contrast, below-normal precipitation seems more likely for January - March in the Southeast and much of the southwestern quarter of the country. Drought is expected to persist where it exists in these regions, and expand to cover areas currently exhibiting some degree of dryness (generally areas shown as abnormally dry, or D0, in the Drought Monitor). This includes Florida and a swath from the Carolinas to the central Gulf Coast in the Southeast, and most areas not already experiencing drought from Colorado and eastern Utah southward through the desert Southwest and southern Rockies, along with westernmost Texas.

California and adjacent areas in the Far West will be closely monitored this period. Patches of above-normal precipitation have been analyzed in southeastern California, but most of the state received less than half of normal precipitation during the last half of 2013, as did parts of adjacent Oregon and Nevada. From southern sections of California’s central valley to the coastal strip between San Francisco and Los Angeles, many locations recorded less than 25% of normal precipitation since late June. Both the January and January – March precipitation outlooks indicate enhanced chances for below-normal precipitation across much of the state and neighboring areas, thus drought is expected to persist or intensify.

Discussion for the Seasonal Drought Outlook

Tools used in the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook (SDO) included the official Climate Prediction Center (CPC) temperature and precipitation outlooks for January 2014, the long lead forecast for January – March 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, climatology, and initial conditions. ENSO conditions continue to be and are forecast to remain neutral.

In the Northeast, a storm system during the 7 days before Christmas should bring moderate to heavy precipitation to current areas of drought, and the 8- to 14-day forecast favors continued above-normal precipitation through the end of the year. Longer-term outlooks favor neither precipitation extreme, but the first 3 months of the year are usually a time for re-charging surface moisture in the region, thus climatological considerations do not favor drought development or intensification by the end of March, though it can’t be ruled out.
Forecast confidence for the Northeast is moderate.

As of mid-December 2013, a small area of drought exists in south-central Alabama. By the end of March 2014, however, drought is forecast to cover much of the swath from the eastern and southern Carolinas southwestward to the central Gulf Coast – specifically, areas identified as abnormally dry (D0) in the current Drought Monitor. In addition, drought is expected to cover the entire Florida peninsula by the end of the period, even in areas not currently identified as abnormally dry. Surface moisture usually remains unchanged or declines across Florida during January – March, which is warm and a climatologically dry time of year relative to conditions from Georgia to the north and west.

Moderate to heavy rain is expected between now and Christmas across Alabama, Mississippi, and the Appalachians, but only light to moderate amounts are forecast farther south and east. Thereafter, conditions should be drying out from west to east, and dryness is favored by the longer-term outlooks for January (outside the Carolinas) and January – March as a whole (region-wide). Still, outside Florida, this is a season where moisture recharge is more common than depletion, and one or two wet storm systems can impede drought development before warmer weather prevails in spring and beyond.
Forecast confidence for the Southeast is high in Florida, moderate elsewhere.

The scattered areas of drought from eastern Texas northeastward through eastern Missouri and central Illinois are expected to improve or be removed from the Drought Monitor by the end of March 2014. Heavy precipitation is anticipated in association with a strong storm system between now and Christmas Day across this region, with amounts of 1.5 to 3.0 inches or a little more. Forecasts either lean toward dryness or favor neither precipitation extreme thereafter, but in addition to the effects of this storm system, this region of expected improvement climatologically experiences moisture recharge more often than do areas farther to the north and west, where the first 3 months of the year are drier than most other seasons. Bottom line – the short-term storm system and climatological considerations point toward drought improvement, though confidence is low.
Forecast confidence for the southeastern Great Plains and the middle and lower Mississippi Valley is low.

Farther north and west – across the rest of the Plains and the upper Midwest – the first three months of the year are drier than most other seasons. Climatologically, the moisture budget dries out more frequently than it recharges, except in areas where snowpack or frozen soils exist for much of the period. Most of the Plains and upper Midwest are expected to miss the brunt of the moisture associated with the next storm system, though areas of northern Texas and adjacent New Mexico and Oklahoma could receive over an inch. Following the storm, there are enhanced chances or below-normal precipitation to the north of central Texas and eastern New Mexico during the last week of the year, and the odds favor a drier than normal January for most of Texas and the southern tier or Oklahoma. For January – March as a whole, neither precipitation extreme is favored, unlike areas farther to the east and to the west. Taking all this into consideration, drought persistence is anticipated but no expansion is forecast at this time, save for the westernmost fringe of the Big Bend region of Texas.
Forecast confidence for the central and southern Plains and the upper Midwest is moderate, except low in easternmost New Mexico and northwestern Texas, where short-term conditions should be wetter than in other areas and longer-term outlooks do not favor dryness as much.

From the Rockies westward, climatologically, January – March varies from a slightly dry time of year in the eastern and southern Rockies (where 10 to 20 percent of annual precipitation usually falls) to a very wet time of year in California (over 45 percent of annual precipitation on average). Area-wide, it is an important season for snowpack to accumulate and provide a ready source of water for the ensuing warm and (in western sections) dry time of year. Thus January – March precipitation is of particular importance to this entire region.

From central and southern sections of the Rockies westward through most of the Intermountain West and the West Coast, light to moderate precipitation is forecast for the first 7 days of the period, followed by enhanced chances for below-normal precipitation during the ensuing week. For January, below-normal precipitation is favored from central and southern California southeastward into northeastern Arizona while surplus precipitation is more likely from central Idaho to the north and east, with neither extreme favored elsewhere. As a whole, the outlook for the first three months of the year has enhanced chances for deficient precipitation from New Mexico and western Colorado westward through the southern half of Nevada and the central and southern sections of California.

Taking all this into account, some relief seems likely in central Idaho and neighboring areas because of anticipated January wetness, but drought persistence (and some expansion into areas already leaning dry) is expected by the end of March across the rest of the region
Forecast confidence from the Rockies to the Pacific Coast is moderate across the northern half of the drought-affected region, and high farther to the south.

Most of the drought area that covered Alaska in mid-November has been removed from the Drought Monitor, with abnormal dryness (D0) remaining in its wake. By the end of March, the small area of drought remaining in east-central Alaska should be removed, although abnormal dryness might not be eliminated as easily.
Forecast confidence for Alaska is high.

Odds for both January and January – March significantly favor above-normal precipitation in Hawaii, thus drought improvement and removal is forecast for the areas of extant drought across Hawaii.
Forecast confidence for Hawaii is high.

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Page Author: Climate Prediction Center Internet Team
Page last modified: December 19, 2013
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