The drought in the southern Plains and the Southeast changed little this week, though relief may soon be coming to areas of the Gulf Coast. The USDA’s latest Drought Monitor released on March 1 showed little change from last week’s report.

In detail, here are a few notable points from this week’s report:

Forecasts bring hope to the Southeast, Gulf Coast
Early to mid-February brought renewed hope to drought relief, but the past week has been quiet. However, forecasts for the next week are showing heavy rain spreading across the Southeast, including northern Alabama, northern Georgia and the Carolinas. Other areas in the region may receive moderate rainfall, resulting in near-normal totals for this time of year.

Southern Plains dries out, heats up
Weeks of welcomed rain decreased the drought on the southern Plains, but Mother Nature has since turned off the tap and cranked up the temperatures. Most notably is the increase in exceptional drought – the most severe level recorded by the Drought Monitor – in west Texas.

The West’s drought reaches moderate to severe levels
Though some areas did see active weather patterns, much of the West continues to dive deeper into drought conditions. California in particular is feeling the pinch of a lack of snow. Most of the region is living off the benefits of the good snow and water from winter 2011, but there are already concerns about water allocation limits during the upcoming planting and growing seasons.

Is there good news in the Drought Outlook?
Heavy rain forecast for drought-ridden SoutheastSadly, the short- and long-term outlooks don’t look promising for the souther Plains or the Southeast.  The Climate Prediction Center’s Drought Outlook, also released today, predicts temperatures to be above-average in March for these areas. Also disappointing is a lack of drought relief. The CPC expects drier-than-normal conditions for the southern and Central High Plains, the immediate Gulf Coast and Florida.

Other areas fared better in the drought outlook.  The Pacific Northwest, northern Rockies, the Great Lakes, the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys and portions of the Mississippi Valley are expected to see wetter-than-average conditions. Areas to the west of the Continental Divide should expect below-average temperatures.

On a positive note, the CPC does see improving drought conditions in areas of Washington, Oregon, California, Kansas, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. However, they also expect drought to develop over most of North Dakota in addition to areas of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada and California.