Thursday, February 15, 2018

Update on the Serious Drought -- The Forecast Changes a Bit

The Bad News

On December 5, I wrote a post called Drought Concerns. In that posting, I expressed the concern the central United States might be headed into a period of seriously dry weather. Unfortunately, that forecast was validated by subsequent events.

Here is the USDA's map of drought conditions superimposed over the winter wheat producing areas.

Even if substantial rains were to begin falling today (they won't), the wheat has been damaged. This is important for people outside of the region due to the production of beef and wheat in the southern half of the Great Plains.

In an increasingly large area, the drought is severe (red).

The map below puts this in some perspective:
For example of the 123 three-month periods for which we have records, it was the driest period (#1; wettest would be #123) ever for Kansas. The states in the single digits were in the top ten driest. In places like Liberal, Kansas, and Woodward, Oklahoma, it has been November since any significant rain or snow occurred. The winter wheat crop (planted in autumn, harvested in very late spring or early summer) desperately needs snow or rain.

The (Mostly) Good News

Now for my new forecast: I believe we are going to move to a period of above normal rainfall in the Central United States from about the first of March through at least Independence Day. However, this not entirely good news: flooding is a significant worry over the Ohio Valley region for at least the next two weeks.

It is always going out on the limb to call a switch from dry to wetter and vice versa. However, I am going to make this call because I believe it is important. Cross your fingers for me!

The latest Canadian, U.S. and European global models all look very similar today with a rainfall pattern about like this. I have chosen the European model to illustrate the pattern change.
click to enlarge
While this map, which illustrates precipitation for the next ten days, shows the rain just east of the primary winter wheat area (dark green on map at the top of this posting), I have reason to believe the area of heavier rains are slightly too far east.

In addition, there is a series of storms headed to the Central U.S. and the high pressure system that was blocking them has moved out of the way. The map below shows a storm -- ten days from now -- in this series moving in a promising direction.
The longer-range model forecasts have even more storms behind that one with the "blocking high" out of the way. Compare the map above with the maps here.

So, things are looking up a bit. I'll continue to periodically update this situation.

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