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Climate Prediction Center


August - October 2004


Latest Seasonal Assessment - The drought in the interior West is forecast to persist, as significant relief from the water shortages cannot be expected until the 2004-05 snow season at the earliest. Nevertheless, showers will boost soil moisture in some areas, benefiting crops and pastures, and reducing the threat of wildfires. The best chances for limited improvement generally extend from the Continental Divide eastward and over the areas in the desert Southwest most affected by the summer "monsoon" rains. Drought is expected to persist in northern Washington. Farther east, drought improvement-generally defined as at least a one-category change in the U.S. Drought Monitor's intensity level-is anticipated for the High Plains region from the Dakotas into western Kansas. This area already saw abundant moisture during the first half of July, and more rain is on the way. Nevertheless, full drought relief is not expected in this area during the next few months due to the severity and longevity of the dryness. It would take some 6 to 8 inches of rain to bring the Palmer Drought Severity Index close to normal in Nebraska's Panhandle and in adjacent southwestern South Dakota. Heavy June rains ended the drought in the Southeast, so this area is no longer a factor in the Outlook, although year-to-day deficits persist in some areas. For most central and eastern states, abundant existing soil moisture would make it difficult for drought to develop and, indeed, many farmers could use a spell of dry weather to dry out their fields. For the dry areas in Alaska affected by the recent rash of wildfires, long-range forecasts do not point to a continuation of the dry and warm weather pattern.

Discussion for the Seasonal Drought Outlook

Tools used in the Drought Outlook included the official CPC long-lead precipitation outlook for August-October Palmer Drought Index Probability Projections for October various medium and short-range forecasts and models such as the 6-10 day and 8-14 day forecasts, and the soil moisture tools based on the GFS model and the Constucted Analogues for the season.

The drought forecast for the interior West continues to call for persisting drought since there is little chance that the hydrologic drought can improve before next winter's snow season. However, warm-season showers can ease the wildfire threat and boost crop and pasture prospects during the summer to early autumn period. This month's Outlook shows limited improvement in a swath generally extending east of the Continental Divide across much of the West due to the forecasts for normal to above-normal rainfall in medium and long-range forecasts. The greatest probabilities for significant rainfall amounts in both the medium and long range appear to be concentrated over the eastern portions of the drought area, extending southward from the Dakotas into Kansas, and this area is depicted as improving on the Outlook. Nevertheless, drought eradication for this area is highly unlikely by October given the duration and intensity of the ongoing drought. The relatively small drought area in northern Washington is forecast to persist, although some improvement may be seen by late October due to the onset of the seasonal autumn rains.

In the Southwest, the monsoon began during the second week of July within a week of its usual starting date, and a fairly normal season appears to be on tap, but with a tendency for below-normal rainfall to the north in the Great Basin. Accordingly, limited improvement is expected from southern and eastern Arizona into New Mexico and northward into Colorado.

No areas of drought development are depicted this month. There are a few areas of dryness in the South and East, but these are outnumbered by the areas with abundant to excessive soil moisture from the central states eastward. There are no indications that sustained dry conditions will develop over any of the areas that are currently dry. Similarly, there are no indications that the unusual warm and dry pattern will resume over eastern Alaska. Recent forecasts call for normal rainfall over Alaska's eastern interior during the 6-10 day and 8-14 day period.

NOAA/ National Weather Service
NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction
Climate Prediction Center
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Page Author: Climate Prediction Center Internet Team
Page last modified: July 15, 2004
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