Latest Seasonal Assessment -
East of the Mississippi River, drought remains confined to a few relatively small areas in the Southeast and the Northeast, and is essentially non-existent elsewhere.
Farther west, an area of drought developed in the northern Plains, but once again, the primary area of drought in the country stretches from the southern half of the
Plains westward through most of the southern Rockies, desert Southwest, Intermountain West, and West Coast States. In the southern Plains, changes were patchy this past
month, but more improvement than deterioration was observed. There was little change across the Intermountain West and the West Coast, save for some reductions in northern
parts of this region and in northwestern California. However, despite these improvements, California remains in the grip of a serious and protracted drought. Over 99.5% of
the state is experiencing at least moderate drought, and exceptional drought (the most severe classification; level D4 on the Drought Monitor) covers about 55% of the
state. Finally, small areas of drought persisted on Maui and Molokai in Hawaii.
The drought outlook valid from November 20, 2014 through February 28, 2015 is based primarily on initial conditions, the December and December - February precipitation
outlooks, El Niño precipitation composites (a weak to moderate episode is expected this winter), and climatology. In California, the seasonal increase in precipitation, a
tilt of the odds toward above-normal precipitation in the December outlook, and enhanced chances for a wetter-than-normal winter across the southern half of the state
should bring improvement to many areas, but it must be emphasized that improvement is not elimination, and it is expected that most of the state will still be in drought
to some degree at the end of the winter, with significant areas still in severe drought or worse despite improvements. Elsewhere, odds favor drought improvement where it
exists across the southern and eastern parts of the country and in southwestern Oregon. In contrast, drought is expected to persist or possibly worsen in the Great Basin
and northern Intermountain West and the upper southern Plains from most of the Texas Panhandle and the western half of Oklahoma northward. Drought is also expected to
persist in the small northern Plains area, and on Maui and Molokai in Hawaii.
Deficient precipitation for at least the past 2 or 3 months, plus enhanced chances for subnormal winter precipitation, prompted a forecast of drought expansion in part of
the northern Intermountain West and a portion of southeastern Michigan. In Hawaii, there are substantially increased chances for a drier than normal winter - typically
one of the wettest times of year - and thus there is a strong probability that drought will expand to cover much, if not all, of the state.
Forecaster: R. Tinker
Next Seasonal Drought Outlook issued: December 18, 2014 at 8:30 AM EDT
Seasonal Drought Outlook Discussion