Latest Monthly Assessment -
During the past 30-days, widespread drought improvement was depicted by the Drought Monitor across much of the Southwest, in parts of the Northwest, south-central and northern Plains, and northern New England. Although the core D3-D4 drought area of the Four Corners region has improved (shrunk) the past few weeks due to cold and unsettled weather that raised WYTD basin average precipitation and SWC (as of Jan. 31) to above normal values, long-term deficits remained, and actual relief from these short-term improvements remain uncertain until the spring snowmelt begins. In contrast, dryness and drought expansion was limited to parts of the north-central Rockies (eastern Idaho, southern Wyoming, northern Colorado) and southern sections of Texas and Florida. Abnormal dryness and drought (D1) was rare in the eastern two-thirds of the Nation, confined to small areas in northern and southern Texas, central North Dakota, and southeastern Florida.
An El Niño Watch remained in effect (as of Jan. 10), with El Niño expected to form and continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2019 (a 65% chance). However, regardless of the above normal SSTs, the atmospheric circulation over the tropical Pacific has yet shown clear evidence of coupling to the ocean, but late winter and early spring tend to be the most favorable months for coupling, so forecasters still believe weak El Niño conditions will emerge shortly. But given the timing and that a weak event is forecast, significant global impacts are not anticipated during the rest of the winter, even if conditions were to form. The next ENSO update will be available on Feb. 14.
The Monthly Drought Outlook (MDO) valid for February 2019 predicts continued improvement in the Southwest (southern California and Four Corners Region) where above normal precipitation is expected, especially during the first half of February, and February is normally wet in western portions of the Southwest. Persistence is forecast for the Northwest; although unsettled (wet) weather is expected during the first week of February, drier weather is predicted for the remainder of the month, thus limiting both improvement and deterioration.
Farther east, the small D1 in southern Texas is short-term, and above normal rainfall during the first half of February should eliminate it. In southern New Mexico and northern Texas, however, the drought is long-term, and with the past 60-day precipitation less than half of normal, it would take significant totals for improvement, hence persistence. The D1 in North Dakota is frozen in place until the spring thaw, buried under a foot of snow with sub-zero readings. After recent rains and some improvement in southeastern Florida, the remaining D1 along the coast should linger as 6-month deficits remained, and drier weather is predicted there during February. Elsewhere, no development is anticipated throughout the eastern two-thirds of the lower 48 States as normal to wet conditions prevailed.
Long-term hydrologic drought is expected to persist across the southeastern Alaskan Panhandle as the odds favor subnormal February precipitation. With the El Niño Watch continuing, drought is anticipated to continue across the leeward sides and possibly develop at some windward locations in the Hawaiian Islands. With mixed February precipitation signals for Puerto Rico, the two small D1 areas were left to persist.
Forecaster: David Miskus
Next Monthly Outlook issued: February 28, 2019 at 3 PM EST
Monthly Drought Outlook Discussion