End In Sight For U.S. Drought?

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Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been talking a lot about the drought across Texas and other parts of the Southwest. Matter of fact, just yesterday I posted on how the Texas drought was to blame for a wind storm that occurred across the eastern U.S. earlier this week.

Is there an end in sight for the drought? ImpactWeather’s StormWatch Manager Fred Schmude weighs in:

“It sure has been a long dry spell and it looks like it may last a bit longer. Normally during La Niña events over the Tropical Pacific (cooler than normal water), most of Texas usually does see below to well-below normal rainfall during the winter and spring season. Fortunately, La Niña is quickly weakening and we should get back into a more normal rainfall pattern by the late spring or early summer.”

 Precipitation outlook for the month of April. Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch

The long range precipitation outlook calls for drier than normal weather from the southern Rockies to the Central Plains, across parts of the Deep South, especially near the Gulf Coast and across the Mid Atlantic through a large part of the Northeast U.S. Farther north, above normal precipitation is expected from the Pacific Northwest though the Northern Plains and across parts of Deep South Texas where several analog season from the past have identified a positive rain bias over this region during April. Elsewhere, near normal precipitation is expected for the most part across the central Rockies and across a large part of the Midwest.

What can we expect across southeast Texas the next couple of days? Here’s Fred’s forecast.  

Strong upper level high pressure will remain in control of the weather pattern through Saturday bringing mostly dry and milder weather over the area. We’ll see increasing moisture levels as a surface high pressure system shifts east of the area allowing moist Gulf breezes to increase over the region. Our next chance of rain will probably not occur until late Sunday afternoon or evening as a strong upper level storm system and Pacific cold front move eastward toward the region and collides with unstable Gulf air. Even though the most favorable dynamics and thunderstorm chances will remain well north and east of the area, we still think there could be a few heavier storms around Sunday evening into Monday morning.

 Surface map for Monday, April 11. A cold front will approach southeast Texas late Sunday bringing a chance of showers and thunderstorms to the area into Monday morning. Image: ImpactWeather

For the extended forecast, long range data indicates that the strong upper level high pressure, which has had a firm hold on the weather pattern over southeast Texas the past several weeks, may weaken a bit and allow a stronger storm system to build over the area Wednesday, April 13 through Thursday, April 14.  Even though confidence in the timing of this weather system is still on the low side, several long range weather signals favor a pattern change which may bring a significantly higher chance of showers and thunderstorms to the forecast area in about a week followed by drier weather through the weekend of April 16-17.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the drought will end anytime soon. In the Houston area, we’re currently 6.00 inches below normal in terms of rainfall compared to what we would typically see by now (11.22 inches on average). Since January 1st, we’ve only received 5.22 inches of rain and we are current in a severe drought. However, in an area north of Houston in eastern Texas, they’re in an exceptional drought (which is the worst).

 Parts of eastern Texas are currently in an exceptional drought (indicated in dark red). Only 2.43 inches of rain has fallen in this area since January 1st. Image: U.S. Drought Monitor

Drier than normal conditions look to continue over parts of the Southwest, Gulf Coast and Northeast this month so it doesn’t look like we’ll get any relief. Where are these “April showers” people are are always talking about? Hopefully this won’t affect the May flowers, but I’m not betting on it.

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