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NOAA image of U.S. Drought Monitor for April 20, 2004.April 22, 2004 — The NOAA Climate Prediction Center and its partners at the NOAA Climatic Data Center, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Drought Mitigation Center Thursday released the latest USA drought conditions. New to the U.S. Drought Monitor this week is the moderate drought in the Southeast. According to the Drought Monitor, drought now extends from southeastern Mississippi eastward into southern Alabama and northwestern Florida and on into central and northeastern Georgia. (Click NOAA image for larger view of U.S. Drought Monitor for April 20, 2004.)

"For months, many people have been focused on the drought situation in the West and the Plains, but last month was the driest March in more than 100 years for the Southeast," said Douglas LeComte, NOAA drought specialist.

"Record dryness in the southeast contributed to near-record low stream flows and rapidly depleted soil moisture. Although earlier this month the Easter weekend rains benefitted parts of the Southeast, the precipitation deficits were too steep to offset. The southeast still needs a good soaking rain," said LeComte.

With estimated soil moisture more than 4 inches below normal, and year-to-date rainfall deficits ranging from 5 to 10 inches, the Southeast can use several inches of rain over an extended period to squelch the developing drought.

For the rest of the month, there is some rain in the forecast but expected amounts fall far short of what is needed. Beyond April, NOAA's long-term forecasters see below-normal rainfall for May through July affecting parts of the region, but also some signs the Southeast may see improvement by late summer in terms of increased rainfall. Forecasters send a word of caution since the summer heat and resulting evaporation make it hard to end drought without considerable rainfall. "We will have to stay tuned in for nature's developments," said LeComte.

Elsewhere in the U.S., drought is predicted to persist in many places in the West and ease in the Great Plains. The recent stormy weather pattern in the Plains states creates its own set of hazards in the short term but can benefit farmers in the long-term with much-needed moisture.

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Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Climate Prediction Center

NOAA Climatic Data Center

NOAA Drought Information Center

Media Contact:
Carmeyia Gillis, NOAA Climate Prediction Center, (301) 763-8000 ext. 7163