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NOAA image of the U.S. Drought Monitor.May 17, 2007 On the cusp of the summer season, NOAA meteorologists are anticipating major drought concerns in sections of the U.S. possibly fueling an already busy wildfire season. In today's updates of the U.S. Drought Monitor and the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook, NOAA scientists are indicating extreme drought to plague areas from Southern California into western Arizona as summer approaches. Meanwhile, drought conditions in the Southeast are expected to show some improvement in the coming weeks and months. (Click NOAA image for larger view of the U.S. Drought Monitor. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

The U.S. Drought Monitor
The latest U.S. Drought Monitor depicts severe to extreme drought in many sections across southern Georgia, Florida, eastern Mississippi into Alabama and southern Tennessee. In the Southwest, severe to extreme drought covers Southern California and much of Arizona, with the worst conditions extending from Southern California into western Arizona. Severe drought has expanded northward from the Nevada-California border into southern Oregon and Idaho.

NOAA image of the NOAA U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook.The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook
Across the central and southern Florida Peninsula, the onset of the traditional thunderstorm season during the last half of May could lead to at least spotty drought improvements. Yet, NOAA cautions: Thunderstorms come with a price; accompanying lightning could trigger more wildfires. (Click NOAA image for larger view of the NOAA U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

For other parts of the Southeast, improvement is less certain, especially with no significant relief showing up on medium-range weather forecasts. The latest monthly and seasonal rainfall forecasts show no tendency for below-normal conditions to persist past June, and historical comparisons with past spring droughts, along with summer climate patterns, suggest some reason for cautious optimism for improvement by summer’s end. Although tropical weather systems can lead to fast recovery of drought, NOAA cannot speculate at this time as to where any systems will strike in coming months, so location and timing of drought relief is uncertain.

Little drought relief is expected from California into the Great Basin. "Since the long dry season is only just beginning for California, prospects for relief are distant and may have to wait for late autumn," said Douglas LeComte, NOAA Climate Prediction Center drought specialist. But, Arizona could experience some relief during the monsoon season, which begins in July.

Farther north drought conditions are expected to persist in Montana, Wyoming, the western Dakotas and western Nebraska but are likely to improve in the Upper Midwest.

Although drought is not predicted in Alaska, large areas have been unseasonably dry and any future warm, dry weather could lead to a serious wildfire season over the interior. Also, dryness may transition to drought in Hawaii, mainly in the leeward areas.

The Origin of Current Conditions
The origin of the drought in the Southeast dates back to July 2006. "Although the lack of hurricanes in 2006 was welcomed, the missing storms contributed to the rainfall deficits persisting to this day," said LeComte. In contrast, in the Southwest, near record low winter precipitation has left behind dangerously low soil moisture and a high fire danger.

The U.S. Drought Monitor is updated every Thursday. NOAA's next update for the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook will be on June 7. People in affected areas are advised to keep abreast of the latest local news and information. NOAA has a variety of information online to help keep you safe.

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Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Drought Assessment Products

NOAA National Weather Service Weather Safety

NOAA Drought Information Center

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