Overview: Last week proved to be cooler than normal in the East (with an exception being Florida, which was above normal) while much of the West was warmer than normal. It was dry across much of the West as well. The only drought-affected region seeing much in the way of precipitation was the Southeast. In general, this has led to more in the way of intensification rather than improvements as we turn our attention toward spring and all the planting activity and watering needs that will follow as nature’s furnace turns over to the heat mode.
Midwest: Cooler weather and some scattered rains still dominated most of the region, and the drought depiction remains unchanged across northern Illinois and up into Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. The eastern half of the region is in better shape than the western reaches at this point and the better rains of last week (1 to 2 inches or more) fell across the southern portions of Illinois and Ohio. Longer-term Water Year deficits (Oct. 1 to date) leave some concern for deeper soil moisture reserves (even in the D-free areas of the region) unless spring rains can erase them altogether, thus the Abnormally Dry (D0 H) and Moderate (D1 H) designations.
The Mid-Atlantic: Generally modest (0.5 to 1.5 inches) rains and unseasonably cooler temperatures (4 to 8 degrees below normal) were widespread across the Mid-Atlantic, with the better amounts falling in the western highland country of the Carolinas and Virginia. This led to some minor reduction of Abnormally Dry to Moderate (D0-D1) along the western flank of the drought within the Carolinas. It also means there is no more Severe Drought (D2) within central North Carolina, based on reports from the N.C. Drought Monitoring Task Force this week. The area still bears watching going into the warm season because precipitation is 50-70% of normal since October 1 across most of the region.
Southeast: Last week brought widespread beneficial rains of 1 to 3 inches or more across a large portion of the region from Mississippi to Georgia and into central Florida. This led to more improvements in the drought depiction this week, with 1-category improvements noted in central Mississippi, northern and east-central Alabama, southern Georgia and northern and central Florida. Notably, Extreme Drought (D3) was removed from Alabama and northeast Florida. A large swath of improvement is also marked across central Florida where heavy rains (3 to 5 inches or more) continued the improvement trend seen here in recent weeks. Cooler temperatures accompanied the rains (lowering fire risk) across Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia while most of Florida experienced above-normal readings. In general, the region is seeing a trend of improvement over the past month in soil moisture (observed and modeled) and USGS streamflow levels from the north and west down to the south and east within the region.