Southwestern Plains received beneficial moisture

The U.S. Drought Monitor is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. (Map courtesy of NDMC.)

Moderate or heavy precipitation amounts fell in three main areas this past week—central and northern California, parts of the southwestern Great Plains (especially southwest Kansas through the Oklahoma and Texas Panhandles), and along the East Coast.

Warmer-than-normal temperatures occurred across much of the central and northern contiguous United States.

The U.S. Drought Monitor is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. (Map courtesy of NDMC.)

For areas in drought or abnormal dryness that received heavy precipitation amounts, improvements occurred locally due to lessening precipitation deficits and increased streamflow and/or soil moisture. In areas between the southern Great Plains heavy rain and the East Coast heavy rain, deficits in streamflow, soil moisture, and precipitation worsened, leading to widespread degrading conditions.


A soaking rain event occurred this week in parts of the western Great Plains, especially in the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles and adjacent western Oklahoma and western north Texas.

In these areas, precipitation deficits and soil moisture improved enough for widespread improvement to abnormal dryness or drought.

Deficits in soil moisture, streamflow, and short- and long-term precipitation continued to locally worsen in northeast Texas and Arkansas. Western Oklahoma and parts of western north Texas and the Texas Panhandle were 4 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.


A mix of dry and wet weather occurred across the Midwest region. Temperatures in parts of Minnesota soared to at least 12 degrees above normal. Mostly drier-than-normal weather in Missouri led to degrading conditions northwest of St. Louis and in south-central Missouri, where deficits in streamflow, soil moisture, and precipitation grew.

The same occurred in central and southwest Iowa. In the Kansas City area, recent rains improved streamflow and soil moisture enough for improvements in drought and abnormal dryness that extended into Kansas just east of Emporia.

High Plains

In parts of southern Colorado, south-central and eastern Nebraska, and much of Kansas, moderate to heavy precipitation amounts fell. Improvements to ongoing drought and abnormal dryness occurred in a north-to-south band across central and western Kansas. The precipitation lessened precipitation deficits and improved soil moisture.

Localized improvements to drought also occurred in south-central Nebraska. Rain was enough to alleviate precipitation and soil moisture deficits somewhat. Low snowpack and dry conditions for the past few months continued in northern Colorado. That led to a southward expansion of moderate drought and abnormal dryness in high elevations.

The wet weather in southern Colorado led to some improvements to drought conditions. Dryness from the past couple of months increased in eastern South Dakota and in the Black Hills, leading to abnormal dryness expanding or developing in both areas. Temperatures in Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas were mostly 3 to 9 degrees above normal, with a few local cooler exceptions. In the Dakotas, temperatures ranging from 6 to locally 15 degrees warmer than normal were common.


In parts of northern and southeast New Mexico, precipitation was enough to improve streamflow, soil moisture and precipitation deficits sufficiently for localized improvements to drought conditions. In southwest and south-central Montana, low snowpack amounts, short-term precipitation deficits, and soil moisture deficits led to localized expansion in drought and abnormal dryness.

A reassessment of short- and long-term conditions in northwest Montana, the northern Idaho Panhandle, and parts of central and western Washington led to localized improvements to ongoing drought and abnormal dryness.

Looking ahead

From Dec. 20 to Christmas evening, the National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center is forecasting several areas of heavier precipitation accumulations.

One area is the central Gulf Coast northward to the middle Missouri and Mississippi River valleys. Precipitation amounts are forecast to range from a half inch to 2 inches, with locally higher amounts possible from northeast Texas into western Arkansas, and along the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama coasts.

From Dec. 26 to 30, the NWS Climate Prediction Center forecast favors below-normal precipitation for most of the region from the Mississippi River and Great Lakes west to the Great Basin. Above-normal precipitation is favored along the West and East Coasts and in deep south Texas.

Below-normal temperatures are favored in areas near the Louisiana and Texas coasts. Elsewhere, near- or warmer-than-normal temperatures are forecast for much of the rest of the contiguous U.S.

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Curtis Riganti is with the National Drought Mitigation Center.