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Climate Prediction Center


January - March 2010


Latest Seasonal Assessment - The updated outlook for January through March 2010 continues to indicate improvement to drought conditions across central and southern California, the Four Corners Region, southern Nevada, and southern Texas. The current El Niño is expected to continue through at least early spring, increasing the odds toward improvement in the aforementioned areas. More limited drought improvement is forecast over northern Nevada and parts of northern California, with persisting drought in southeastern Oregon, as the storm track shifting further to the south later in winter is expected to lower precipitation chances. In contrast, drought is forecast to persist in northern Wisconsin and east-central Washington. Drought development is forecast during the period from parts of Montana into the western High Plains, as well as over parts of Ohio and Kentucky. A new area of development is forecast for western Wyoming and southeastern Idaho, where the snow pack is off to a poor start this season. With El Niño episodes favoring below median winter rains over Hawaii, severe to extreme drought in the state is expected to continue or worsen, with the potential for drought to develop across the remainder of the Hawaiian Islands during the period.

Discussion for the Seasonal Drought Outlook

Tools used in the Drought Outlook included the official CPC precipitation outlook for January 2010 and the long lead forecast for January - March 2010, the four-month Palmer drought termination and amelioration probabilities, various medium- and short-range forecasts and models such as the 6-10 day and 8-14 day forecasts, the soil moisture tools based on the GFS model and the Constructed Analogue on Soil (CAS) moisture, the Climate Forecast System (CFS) seasonal precipitation forecasts, El Nio precipitation and temperature composites for January - March 2010, climatology, and initial conditions.

Moderate to severe drought continues in northwest Wisconsin. Soil moisture anomalies in this area currently remain negative. Although medium-range forecasts predict above median precipitation in this region, precipitation amounts should not be high enough to alleviate drought. Since long-range forecast guidance does not suggest the potential for wetter than median conditions in this region, persistence is forecast. Precipitation typically increases later in the spring.
Forecast confidence for Wisconsin is low.

Continued relief from the protracted drought affecting parts of southern Texas appears likely. Precipitation forecasts at all time ranges along with the ongoing El Niño strongly favor improvement for the Texas drought area.
Forecast confidence for Texas is high.

Despite the heavy precipitation that occurred in early December, Winslow and Flagstaff, Arizona recorded their 2nd and 4th driest years, respectively. Widespread drought continues for the Southwest and Four Corners region and dry weather has prevailed since the winter storms in early December. Model guidance indicates that precipitation could return by late January. CPCs seasonal forecast for January through March indicates a slight tilt in the odds for wetter than median conditions across southern parts of Nevada, Utah, and Colorado, with increasing odds for wetter than median conditions across Arizona. The ongoing El Niño and its associated wet conditions for this region suggest drought improvement for this drought area.
Forecast confidence for the Southwest and Four Corners region is moderate.

CPCs 6-10 day and 8-14 day precipitation forecasts call for increasing odds for above median precipitation over much of California and Nevada. El Niño composites along with the CPC seasonal outlook favor above median precipitation during January through March across central and southern California. Typically, the storm track along the West Coast shifts south later in the winter. The CPC seasonal forecast is slightly less optimistic for above median precipitation over northern California, northern Nevada and southern Oregon, where equal chances for above, below or near median precipitation are indicated. With these considerations in mind, improvement during this period is more likely across central and southern California with odds for improvement decreasing farther north. Persistence is forecast for southeast Oregon and adjacent areas of Nevada.
Forecast confidence for central and southern California is high, and forecast confidence for northern California, northern Nevada and southern Oregon is moderate.

Moderate to severe drought continues in east-central Washington. Due to a lower than usual snowpack at this time of year, drought has recently developed in western Montana. El Niño composites along with CPCs monthly and seasonal outlooks favor persistence and expansion of drought across east-central Washington and parts of Montana. Abnormal dryness currently exists across eastern Idaho and extreme western Wyoming. Snow depth departures are as much as 2 to 3 feet below normal in eastern Idaho and western Wyoming. Also, basin average snow water content values are running 50 to 75 percent of normal in these areas. Due to these initial conditions and correlations with previous El Niño events indicating below normal snowpack, drought development is forecast in eastern Idaho and extreme western Wyoming.
Forecast confidence for Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming is moderate.

With the exception of northwest Ohio, current stream flows are running at or above normal across Ohio. Precipitation has generally averaged near normal during the past 30 and 90 days. CPCs seasonal outlook for January March indicates relatively high odds for below median precipitation across the Ohio Valley. This is consistent with El Niño composites for January March, which favors below median precipitation. Despite a strong signal for drought development during an El Niño winter, uncertainty in the precipitation forecast during the first 2 weeks of the period combined with current moisture levels reduce confidence for drought development. Any such development, should it occur, would take place late in the period.
Forecast confidence for Ohio and northern Kentucky is low.

As is consistent with an ongoing El Niño, Hawaii is expected to receive below-median precipitation during this period. These dry conditions will likely exacerbate ongoing areas of severe to extreme drought over Hawaii and also provide support for drought development over the remainder of the Hawaiian Islands.
Forecast confidence for Hawaii is high.


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NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction
Climate Prediction Center
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Page Author: Climate Prediction Center Internet Team
Page last modified: January 7, 2010
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