The northern Plains paid a high price for easing some of its drought conditions, but the same can’t be said for all states battling drought, according to this week’s Drought Monitor report.
In the wake of last week’s powerful storm system, ranchers in South Dakota are left counting their losses after several feet of snow killed nearly 60,000 cows and other rural communities in Iowa and Nebraska are left cleaning up after an outbreak of early-autumn tornadoes. But was it enough to break the drought?
The answer: No, but it helped.
In the states hardest hit by the storm, drought conditions improved significantly. Last week, more than 86 percent of Nebraska was in moderate or worse drought. This week, that number dropped to 68 percent.
In nearby South Dakota, where drought has gradually crept back into the state over the last several weeks, drought conditions improved by 17 percentage points from last week. Currently, 9 percent of the state is in moderate to severe drought.
However, not all states reported beneficial, drought-easing precipitation. In Texas, more than one-fourth of the state is in severe or worse drought, up slightly from last week’s report. Experts have predicted that above-average temperatures and lower-than-normal moisture amounts will persist for months and could stretch for as long as 15 years.
According to the Amarillo (Texas) Globe News, John Nielsen-Gammon, state climatologist and a professor with Texas A&M University’s department of atmospheric sciences, said long-term temperature patterns from the Pacific and Atlantic oceans are comparable to those from what he considers the worst drought of record, in the 1950s.
For that reason, he estimates Texas’ drought susceptibility could continue another five to 15 years.
“It’s very possible this drought may last several more years,” Nielsen-Gammon told reporters.
Other states further to the west, including California, Nevada and Idaho, may not be looking at more than a decade of drought, but current drought conditions are sticking around through at least the end of the year. The Climate Prediction Center doesn’t expect conditions to ease for these areas before 2014.