WESTERN DROUGHT, OUTLOOK PROMPT FORECASTERS’ CONCERNS
January 21, 2003 — A thin snow pack is raising concerns that stream flows and water supplies will be low for the spring and summer in several Western states, forecasters at the NOAA National Weather Service said today.
In its latest drought assessment, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center said severe drought continues over most of the interior Western states and the central and northern Plains. Conditions ranging from abnormal dryness to moderate drought extend across the Midwest from western Missouri to the Great Lakes. Forecasters added that precipitation is plentiful across the South and Northeast, although drought persists in northern Maine.
“The dryness in the Midwest is expected to continue during the next several months, although lake-effect snows will bring local improvement,” said Douglas Lecomte, a NOAA climatologist. “Rain or snow should bring improvement from the Southwest into the central Plains, while little significant change in the drought situation can be expected across the northern Plains and northern and central Rockies,” he added.
prospects for drought relief are in Montana and Wyoming, which are
Stream Plays Role
Additionally, conditions have been unusually dry across much of the Midwest since fall, allowing drought to persist in some areas or expand in others. The winter pattern of an active jet stream dipping southward into the eastern U.S. brought drought-ending rain and snow to the East, but this pattern has left areas in the central part of the country and interior West cut off from Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Ocean moisture sources.
Lecomte said: “We need to see the pattern change so that the jet stream extends farther southward in the Rockies and High Plains. This change shows signs of occurring, at least temporarily, resulting in snow spreading across the Midwest this week.”
weeks, El Niño has contributed much-needed
precipitation to many parched areas of the country. For example, fall
and winter storms along the Gulf and East Coasts have nearly ended the
drought from Texas to Georgia, and along the entire East Coast. The precipitation
has many wells and reservoirs in the East at near normal levels, with
some even above-normal.
“Despite major improvement in the East, we still have severe drought covering more than one-fifth of the country, so it will take at least several more months to get back to a more normal situation,” Lecomte said.
The NOAA Climate Prediction Center, one of the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Prediction, is part of the NOAA National Weather Service. The Climate Prediction Center assesses national drought conditions as well as predicts and monitors El Niño. The center also produces the nation’s official long-range outlooks and medium-range weather forecasts.
NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation’s coastal and marine resources. NOAA is part of the Department of Commerce.