This Week's Drought Summary (5/14)

May 14, 2020

Light precipitation at best covered most of the 48 states, so drought deterioration was more common than improvement this past week. Less than half an inch fell on most areas across the Southeast, Great Lakes Region, central and northern Plains, Mississippi Valley, Texas, and from the Rockies to the Pacific Coast. Widespread light to moderate precipitation covered the Northeast and the central Appalachians, and a fairly broad area centered along the Ohio Valley received from a few tenths to one-half inch. Farther west, there were a few exceptions to the generally dry week. More than 2 inches of rain soaked parts of the south-central Great Plains and adjacent western Mississippi Valley, western Deep South Texas, and central Montana. The broadest area of heavy precipitation covered a solid swath from south-central Kansas through southern Missouri, where totals ranged from 2 to nearly 4 inches. Similar amounts were more scattered in a stripe from southern Oklahoma and northeastern Texas through southern Louisiana, as well as in central Montana. Isolated sites in southwestern Texas were soaked by as much as 6 inches of rain, but closer to 2 inches fell on most locales there. Elsewhere, there were a few areas of moderate to precipitation from the northern High Plains into central Montana, and in orographically-favored parts of the northern Cascades.


A week of near normal precipitation kept moisture deficits at bay. For the past few months, surplus precipitation has prevailed, and no areas of dryness or drought were identified.


Despite the dry week, most of the Southeast maintained the precipitation surpluses observed on time scales ranging from 30 days to a couple years, especially across the interior. Closer to the coast, conditions are markedly different. Drought is limited in coverage, but entrenched and severe in many areas where it exists. Conditions were effectively unchanged across the Florida Peninsula. Most areas there are nominally dry, but drought has enveloped central and eastern parts of the upper Peninsula, and much of the lower Peninsula. An area of severe D2 drought has settled near the southwestern coast, where the last 90 days brought only 10 to 25 percent of normal rainfall.

Dry conditions are also established along the central Gulf Coast region, extending into southern Alabama. Moderate drought expanded eastward near the coastal areas, stretching to near the Peninsula, while severe drought (D2) pushed slightly northward in the Alabama Panhandle and southernmost Mississippi. Rainfall since mid-February has totaled 8 to 12 inches below normal in the D2 areas, and wildfires are dotting the westernmost section of Florida.


Similar to conditions in the Southeast, surplus rainfall has prevailed across the interior, but dryness and drought are entrenched along most of the Gulf Coast, and across southern Texas. Less extreme dryness covers part of central Texas, western Oklahoma and adjacent Texas, and the lower Big Bend. D0 prevails across these regions, with only scattered patches of moderate drought. In contrast, extreme D3 drought has developed in a few regions across southern Texas, primarily near the Gulf of Mexico and along the Rio Grande, while severe drought is impacting a large part of southeastern Texas and smaller areas near the Mexican Border. A small area of intense rainfall – up to 5 inches in spots – brought relief to western Deep South Texas, with the wettest areas improving from severe D2 drought to abnormal dryness (D0). Areas of severe to extreme drought recorded less than half of normal rainfall for the past 90 days, with rainfall deficits of 5 to 7 inches observed southeast of Victoria.


This regions remains free of drought, with persistently above-normal precipitation prevailing for over a year in some areas. Still, a few small areas of abnormal dryness have developed. One in east-central Michigan grew slightly this past week, and a small area of D0 pushed into west-central Wisconsin from the broader-scale dryness farther west.

High Plains

Drought is intensifying quickly across the southern tier of this region from southern Colorado through western Kansas. Severe D2 drought is now extant throughout this area, and extreme D3 drought envelops much of southern Colorado and adjacent southwestern Kansas. Most of this region has recorded less than an inch of precipitation during the past 3 months, and at best a few tenths of an inch have fallen mid-March. Abnormally warm weather is exacerbating the acute dryness. The past 3 months have averaged 2 to 4 degrees F above normal, and since late April, averages have been 7 to 9 degrees F above normal. Farther north and east, many areas fell into abnormal dryness this past week as precipitation deficits continued to slowly accumulate. Many areas have seen precipitation totals among the driest 5 percent of historical occurrences for the last 30 days, or 90 days, or both. D0 was introduced where the dryness has been most acute for 1 to 3 months,