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Mild weather returned across much of the country for several days, following a mid-November cold blast in the central and eastern United States, according to the Nov. 26 U.S. Drought Monitor released Nov. 27. Meanwhile, significant precipitation fell during the drought-monitoring period in several areas, including the Southwest and interior Southeast.

The Southwestern precipitation, which reversed a drying trend that began with a sub-par monsoon season, provided much-needed moisture and limited drought relief. In contrast, little precipitation fell in the Northwest, which continued to experience an increase in dryness-related impacts (e.g. poor snowpack, low streamflow, and dry soils). Farther east, rain further chipped away at lingering dryness across the South and East. Patchy drought persisted, however, across portions of the central and southern Plains, leading to adverse effects on some rangeland, pastures, and winter grains.

As the drought-monitoring period ended on Nov. 26, a pair of major storm systems—one emerging from the central Rockies and the other approaching the Pacific Coast—brought the promise of widespread precipitation that will be evaluated for next week’s U.S. Drought Monitor.

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High Plains

Drought is confined to parts of Colorado and Kansas. However, further worsening of the drought situation occurred from southwestern through central Kansas, where moderate to severe drought (D1 to D2) was expanded. More than one-sixth (17%) of the winter wheat in Kansas was reported in very poor to poor condition on Nov. 24, according to USDA. On the same date, USDA reported that topsoil moisture was more than 40% very short to short in Kansas (48%) and Colorado (42%).

Midwest

The Midwest remained free of drought for a third consecutive week. The only part of the Midwest experiencing abnormal dryness (D0) is southeastern Kentucky, where some lingering groundwater shortages have been reported. In contrast, Midwestern wetness has contributed to the second-slowest U.S. corn harvest in the last 25 years. On Nov. 24, only 84% of the nation’s corn had been harvested, compared to the 5-year average of 96%. The only recent year with a slower U.S. corn harvest was 2009, when 71% of the crop had been cut by Nov. 24.

South

There were only minor changes made to the drought depiction in Oklahoma and Texas, where mostly dry weather accompanied a gradual warming trend. Oklahoma’s panhandle (and neighboring areas) continued to experience some of the region’s harshest conditions, with moderate to severe drought (D1 to D2) further expanding. On Nov. 24, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that topsoil moisture was 43% very short to short in Texas, along with 41% in Oklahoma. On the same date, Texas led the nation with 28% of its winter wheat rated in very poor to poor condition, compared to the national average of 14%. Farther east, there were few changes, although rain chipped away at pockets of abnormal dryness (D0) and moderate drought (D1) in a few areas. Though not in an area experiencing dryness, Knoxville, Tennessee, reported a daily-record rainfall total of 2.64 inches on Nov. 23.

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