Ag Weather Forum

NOAA Forecasts More Southern Plains Drought

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , Ag Meteorologist Emeritus
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NOAA forecasters look for drought expansion through most of the Southern Plains and the Delta. (NOAA Climate Prediction Center graphic)

Drought conditions show no easing over the Southern Plains, the southwestern Midwest and Delta going into the rest of this summer and the first half of the fall season. That was a big takeaway from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) monthly climate summary and outlook call Thursday, July 19.

"In the drought outlook, we are calling for development or enhancement in the Southern Plains, the (southern) Midwest and the Delta, along with the Pacific Northwest," said NOAA forecaster Matthew Rosencrans. "There is also a strong signal for drought in the Pacific Northwest."

Ongoing or developing drought goes along with a year-long lack of precipitation in Missouri and Kansas. "In the NOAA North Central region, there has been a big precipitation gradient between wet north and very dry south," said Nebraska state climatologist Martha Shulski. "There has been soil water degradation in Kansas, Colorado and Missouri." Northern Missouri and northeastern Kansas are in severe to extreme drought on the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Meanwhile, drought that has notably intensified in Texas and the Delta is indicated to either continue or get worse. El Nino may form in the Pacific Ocean, but any resulting precipitation benefit for the Southern Plains will take well into winter to develop. The northwestern U.S. has drought indicated to intensify as well. The Northwest already has anywhere from Abnormal Dryness to Severe Drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Drought may actually ease a bit in the southwestern U.S. The NOAA forecast calls for some drought improvement. In this region, anything better than exceptional drought would be welcome. This prospect, in part, is tied to a potential El Nino tie-in.

"Late (summer) season tropical cyclones with El Nino activity may bring some hurricane moisture into the Southwest," said NOAA forecaster Matthew Rosencrans. "Also, the hotter temperatures over the southwestern U.S. may enhance the southwest monsoon activity."

Nebraska state climatologist Martha Shulski concurred with Rosencrans in this assessment. "Given the combination of increased warmth as well as dryness, that's what's driving the seasonal outlook. The good thing is that in Colorado, there is some easing or even ending of drought conditions," Shulski said. "Farther into October-November-December, with El Nino developing, we are seeing a better chance for above-normal precipitation in the southern and southwestern U.S."

The drought scenario is consistent with indicators tracked by DTN. Eastern Pacific sea surface temperatures, in particular, are showing a slight trend to warmer values, with El Nino threshold likely during the mid-to-late-autumn time frame.

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