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HOME > Expert Assessments > Drought Information > Seasonal Drought Outlook
 
 
 
 
 
United States Seasonal Drought Outlook Graphic - click on image to enlarge
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During late January, heavy precipitation (1 to 3 inches) was observed across much of the Middle and Lower Mississippi Valleys, Tennessee and Ohio Valleys, and parts of the Southeast. Based on the recent heavy precipitation and lack of a strong dry signal in the seasonal (Feb-Mar-Apr) outlook, the updated seasonal drought outlook calls for drought removal for the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys. Due to a wet start to February and the updated February outlook favoring above-normal precipitation, the updated SDO calls for improving drought across parts of the Southwest.

Updated Seasonal Assessment - During late January, heavy precipitation (1 to 3 inches) was observed across much of the Middle and Lower Mississippi Valleys, Tennessee and Ohio Valleys, and parts of the Southeast. Based on the recent heavy precipitation and lack of a strong dry signal in the seasonal (Feb-Mar-Apr) outlook, the updated seasonal drought outlook calls for drought removal for the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys. Due to a wet start to February and the updated February outlook favoring above-normal precipitation, the updated SDO calls for improving drought across parts of the Southwest.

Latest Seasonal Assessment - During the past month, an active southern stream pattern promoted widespread storminess, which brought significant drought relief to the eastern half of the contiguous U.S. (CONUS). In contrast, a warm pattern along the northern tier attributed in part to the ongoing El Niño largely prevented the development of typical snowpack conditions across the northern Cascades, Rockies, northern Plains, the upper Midwest, and New England. Drought conditions expanded across Wyoming and Montana, despite some periods of precipitation. While atmospheric river events and enhanced Pacific flow brought copious rainfall and flooding to coastal California, snowfall to the Cascades, and some drought relief across the Pacific Northwest, drier and warm conditions promoted some expansion of drought and abnormal dryness to south-central Oregon, northeastern California, and northwestern Nevada.



The Spring months present unique forecast considerations. El Niño conditions are favored to begin waning towards the end of the period, though above-normal temperatures are favored to persist along the northern tier. Moisture from the Gulf of Mexico increasingly penetrates northward over the Midwest and Great Plains, creating opportunities for substantial precipitation events, and the West Coast wet season winds down. Evapotranspiration rates also begin rising as the sun angle increases and vegetation wakes up from winter dormancy. Much of the northern tier is vulnerable to Spring drought development due to the reduced potential for a typical Spring melt given the currently meager snowpack conditions and a warm seasonal outlook reducing the potential for late-season snowpack building. Therefore, some slow drought development is possible across the Cascades and northern Rockies, where snow water equivalent levels are below average. Drought development is also favored for the northern Plains, upper Midwest, and Great Lakes regions along the Canadian border. A similar situation exists across northern New England; however, development is not indicated in this outlook since incipient groundwater and streamflow conditions remain adequate, though any periods of abnormal warmth or dryness during the Spring could hasten drought development. Drought development is also favored for western and southern Texas, where antecedent conditions are already dry and the seasonal precipitation outlook favors below-average precipitation. Elsewhere, a wet Spring pattern fueled by the waning El Niño favors continued drought reductions for portions of the Great Plains, western Corn Belt, the Mississippi Delta region, and the Tennessee Valley.



The broader ENSO suppressed precipitation signal across Hawaii was offset by a series of Kona Low events that reduced drought coverage. Below-average precipitation remains favored through the Spring months, which may promote slow drought expansion across portions of the Big Island that are already abnormally dry. No drought is currently in place or expected to develop across Alaska. Drought conditions have slowly expanded across Puerto Rico, though storminess reduced drought coverage across the US Virgin Islands. Given the fairly dry time of year and waning El Niño conditions, drought persistence is the most likely outcome.



Forecaster: Adam Allgood



Next Seasonal Drought Outlook issued: March 21, 2024 at 8:30 AM EDT

Seasonal Drought Outlook Discussion

 


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