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 HOME > Expert Assessments > Drought Information > Monthly Drought Outlook
United States Monthly Drought Outlook Graphic - click on image to enlarge
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Latest Monthly Assessment - During the past 2 weeks since the release of the latest Seasonal Drought Outlook (Dec. 18), drought improvement occurred in north-central California, parts of the Northwest, along portions of the western Gulf Coast, and in most of New England and the Southeast. The recent wetness in the latter region abruptly ended a steady expansion of dryness and drought prior to late December. Drought mostly persisted in the remainder of the West and Southwest, the northern and southern Plains, Tennessee and lower Mississippi Valleys, in parts of the mid-Atlantic, and in Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

During early January, the recent pattern of above-normal precipitation for the Gulf Coast and Southeast is expected to continue, allowing for additional improvement or removal of drought in the extreme southern Great Plains, the lower Mississippi Valley, and central Gulf Coast. Additionally, favorable odds of above-median precipitation in week 1 and 2 outlooks across the eastern third of the Nation will not only prevent any deterioration of lingering abnormal dryness, but may also remove the short-term D0 by the end of the month. In the central and northern Plains, however, the winter months are climatologically dry, the ground is usually frozen until the spring (especially in northern locales), and there are conflicting or no clear signals over the upcoming month, hence persistence.

In the Southwest, cold and snowy weather will usher 2015 in, increasing currently low snow packs in Arizona, southern Utah, western New Mexico, and southern Colorado. After this storm passes, however, drier and milder conditions are expected during week 1 and 2 outlooks, providing no help for improvement of drought. Although the January precipitation outlook tilts the odds toward above-median totals across the Southwest, the expected quiet first half of the month (after the Jan. 1 storm), along with relatively low January normals for most of the region, would not be enough for any drought improvement by the end of the month.

In the West, drought is expected to persist where it exists across the Intermountain West and Pacific Coast States, including California. Unfortunately, the wet and mild weather that impacted north-central California during the first half of December was replaced by colder and drier weather late in the month. This drier weather pattern is expected to continue into early January, and with the three winter months (Dec-Jan-Feb) climatologically the wettest in California, any extended period with minimal precipitation quickly accumulates deficits. Considering the entrenched multi-year nature of the drought in California, recent Drought Monitor improvements (D4 to D3) in north-central sections, and somewhat decreased odds for above-median January precipitation in northern California in the updated monthly outlook, conditions are not expected to improve substantially by the end of January. However, with a weak El Nino event expected to occur late this winter into the spring bringing favorable odds for above-median monthly and seasonal precipitation across southern California, the Seasonal Drought Outlook (JFM'15) indicated that some improvement is likely by the end of March. But even if this happens, 3 straight years of drought and large accumulated deficits will most-likely take several years of above normal winter precipitation to completely eradicate the drought, especially with respect to hydrologic conditions.

The odds favor drier than normal weather in Hawaii during January, and for the winter as a whole. Climatologically, rainfall is highest during the winter months in Maui and Molokai (where small D1 areas currently exist). But with recent, widespread, moderate to heavy showers in late December, these rains should more than offset any predicted subnormal January precipitation, thus drought should persist (and not expand) by the end of January. There is currently no drought (and none forecast) in Alaska and Puerto Rico.

Forecaster: Brad Pugh and David Miskus

Next Monthly Drought Outlook issued: January 31, 2015 at 3:00 PM EDT

Monthly Drought Outlook Discussion

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Page last modified: December 31, 2014
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