Drought - March 2014


NCDC transitioned to the nClimDiv dataset on Thursday, March 13, 2014. This was coincident with the release of the February 2014 monthly monitoring report. For details on this transition, please visit our public FTP site and our U.S. Climate Divisional Database site.

Issued 15 April 2014
Contents Of This Report:
Map showing Palmer Z Index
Percent Area of U.S. in Moderate to Extreme Drought, January 1996 to present

Please note that the values presented in this report are based on preliminary data. They will change when the final data are processed, but will not be replaced on these pages.


National Drought Overview

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Detailed Drought Discussion

Overview

During March 2014, a strong long-wave trough in the upper-level circulation remained entrenched over eastern Canada. The northerly flow over central North America, associated with the trough, directed cold and dry northerly air masses into the CONUS. This pattern brought below-normal temperatures to most of the country east of the Rockies and deflected much of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic moisture away from the interior CONUS, resulting in a drier-than-normal month from the Great Plains to Central Appalachians. A long-wave ridge in the upper atmosphere dominated the southwestern U.S., bringing warmer-than-normal temperatures and inhibiting widespread precipitation. This combination of northerly flow in the central U.S. and ridge over the Southwest caused drought to expand in the Plains, Midwest, South, Southeast, Southwest, and U.S. as a whole, and the intensity of drought to increase significantly in the Southern Plains. Meanwhile, energetic short-wave troughs moving in the upper-level flow picked up Pacific moisture and slammed into the western CONUS, bringing precipitation to the Pacific Northwest, Northern Rockies, and northern California. The rain and snow contracted drought in the Northwest, but expansion and intensification of drought in the Southwest resulted in a net small increase of drought for the West. With the Pacific storm track hammering the Pacific Northwest, most weather systems were directed south of Alaska, resulting in a drier-than-normal month for much of the state. The precipitation pattern across Hawaii was mixed but with wetter-than-normal conditions dominating. When integrated across the CONUS, March 2014 ranked as the 41st driest March in the 1895-2014 record. On balance, the national drought footprint expanded to 32.1 percent of the U.S. as a whole, according to USDM statistics. According to the Palmer Drought Index, which goes back to the beginning of the 20th century, 28.2 percent of the CONUS was in moderate to extreme drought at the end of March, a decrease of about 1 percent compared to last month.

The U.S. Drought Monitor drought map valid April 1, 2014
The U.S. Drought Monitor drought map valid April 1, 2014.

By the end of the month, the core drought areas in the U.S. included:

  • a large area of drought in the West consisting of moderate (D1) to extreme (D3) drought, with pockets of exceptional (D4) drought in California and Nevada;
  • areas of moderate to extreme drought, with pockets of exceptional drought, from the Southern Plains to Central Plains, connected to the western drought by a bridge of moderate to severe (D2) drought across the Southwest;
  • moderate to severe drought in the Midwest, joined to the Plains drought; and
  • Hawaii, where moderate to extreme drought persisted.

Palmer Drought Index

The Palmer drought indices measure the balance between moisture demand (evapotranspiration driven by temperature) and moisture supply (precipitation). The Palmer Z Index depicts moisture conditions for the current month, while the Palmer Hydrological Drought Index (PHDI) and Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) depict the current month's cumulative moisture conditions integrated over the last several months. While both the PDSI and PHDI indices show long-term moisture conditions, the PDSI depicts meteorological drought while the PHDI depicts hydrological drought. The PDSI map shows less severe drought in the West than the PHDI map because the meteorological conditions that produce drought are not as long-lasting over much of the West as the hydrological impacts.

Palmer Z Index map Palmer Hydrological Drought Index map

Used together, the Palmer Z Index and PHDI maps show that short-term wet conditions occurred during March over the Pacific Northwest which had areas in long-term drought or neutral conditions during February, resulting in contraction of drought by the end of March. Short-term dry conditions occurred over the Midwest, Central to Southern Plains, and Southwest, which had areas in long-term drought or neutral conditions during February, resulting in an intensification and expansion of drought by the end of March. Short-term dry conditions occurred over parts of the southern Great Lakes to Southern Appalachians, which had moderately moist conditions at the end of February, resulting in the contraction of the moist areas. Wet short-term conditions occurred over the long-term near normal to wet areas of the Northern Plains to Northern Rockies, resulting in expansion of the wet spell areas there.


Standardized Precipitation Index

The Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) measures moisture supply. The SPI maps here show the spatial extent of anomalously wet and dry areas at time scales ranging from 1 month to 24 months.

1-month Standardized Precipitation Index 3-month Standardized Precipitation Index 6-month Standardized Precipitation Index

The SPI maps illustrate how moisture conditions have varied considerably through time and space over the last two years. The wet conditions during February and March 2014 in the Pacific Northwest, northern California, and the Northern Rockies have been enough to neutralize the dryness at the 1- and 2-month time scales, and even at 3 months, but not at longer time scales. Conversely, the Northern Plains show up as dry at the 1- to 3-month time scales, but are wet at longer time scales. A large swath of the country, from the Southwest, through the Great Plains, to parts of the Great Lakes and Appalachians, is dry at the 2- to 3-month time scales. This swath of dryness is also evident at the 1-month time scale, except Pacific weather systems dropped enough moisture to exclude the West from the dry pattern. It is evident at the 6-month time scale as well, except it extends from the Mississippi River to the West Coast. Rain from the monsoon season and early fall of 2013 shows up as wetness in the Southwest at 9 months, with California, the Midwest, and parts of southern New England and the Lower Mississippi Valley dry. At 12 months, dryness in the Southern Plains and Far West is evident, and the great drought of 2012 shows up as dryness from the Midwest to West Coast at 24 months in spite of precipitation that has fallen since then.


9-month Standardized Precipitation Index 12-month Standardized Precipitation Index 24-month Standardized Precipitation Index


Agricultural, Hydrological, and Meteorological Indices and Impacts

USDA mountain snowpack
USDA mountain snowpack
USGS monthly streamflow percentiles
USGS monthly streamflow percentiles

Drought conditions were reflected in numerous agricultural, hydrological, and other meteorological indicators, both observed and modeled.

Total column soil moisture percentiles from the NLDAS ensemble model
Total column soil moisture percentiles from the NLDAS ensemble model.

The cumulative impact of the reduced precipitation (1, 3, 6 months) in the nation's agricultural areas can be seen in dried soils and stressed vegetation in parts of the West, especially California but also the Pacific Northwest and Arizona, and in the Southern to Central Plains. This was confirmed by reports of non-irrigated crops continuing to suffer and lack of forage causing ranchers to cull their herds. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as of April 1st, about 52 percent of winter wheat was in drought, up from 45 percent a month ago, 45 percent of the cattle inventory was in drought (up 4 percent), 31 percent of hay (up 5 percent), 31 percent of corn (up 6 percent), and 24 percent of soybeans (up 7 percent). April 6th reports indicated that 29 percent of the winter wheat crop was in poor to very poor condition, nationally, with state values of 61 percent in Texas, 48 percent in Oklahoma, 33 percent in Colorado, and 27 percent in Kansas. These were all significantly greater than the values at the beginning of the wheat growing season last November. The statewide values for pasture and rangeland in poor to very poor conditions were: 48 percent in Texas, 43 percent in Oklahoma, and 37 percent in Colorado. March precipitation improved soil moisture conditions in parts of the West, although soils there were still dry, but soil moisture continued to be depleted in the Plains to Midwest. USDA observations rated half or more of the topsoil moisture short or very short (dry or very dry) in Oklahoma (75 percent), Texas (74 percent), Kansas (68 percent), and Colorado (49 percent). The Palmer Crop Moisture Index (CMI) showed abnormally dry conditions expanding northward in the Southwest as the month progressed (weeks 1, 2, 3, 4).

USDA West statewide reservoir status
USDA West statewide reservoir status.

The subnormal precipitation was reflected in below-normal monthly precipitation totals as well as lack of rain days and long runs of consecutive dry days, especially in the Southwest and Southern Plains. Streamflow averaged below normal in parts of the West, Plains, and Southern Appalachians, with some basins averaging much below normal and some stream gauges measuring record low monthly values for March. Persistent below-freezing temperatures likely contributed to below-normal streamflow observations in the Great Lakes and Northeast. Frequent snow storms dropped an above-normal snow cover east of the Rockies, especially in northern states, but the snow cover, snow water content, and snow pack in the Southwest remained below normal. Even though the Pacific Northwest had above-normal precipitation during March (and February), the water year-to-date (October 1 to present) precipitation has been below normal, even in parts of the Pacific Northwest, which has received the bulk of the precipitation. The February and March precipitation fell mostly as rain instead of snow, resulting in a continued below-normal mountain snow pack and snow water content at most locations. The persistent dryness — for the water year-to-date and longer — was reflected in below-normal groundwater and springwater observations, and, for Texas (especially the western counties), California, and most of the western states, below-normal reservoir levels.


Regional Discussion

Hawaii: The precipitation pattern for March 2014 and the last two to three months was mixed across Hawaii, but with wetter-than-normal conditions prevailing. The pattern in the near term (last 6, 9, and 12 months) generally consisted of drier-than-normal weather on Oahu and The Big Island, with mixed to wet conditions on the others. Drier-than-normal conditions tended to dominate on most of the islands at the longer time scales (last 24 to 36 months). In spite of the rain that fell this month, the moderate to extreme drought area increased from 12.8 percent last month to 14.4 percent this month, although March streamflow was generally near normal.

Alaska: March was drier than normal for most stations in Alaska. The March dryness, coupled with a drier-than-normal February, gave the last two to three months a predominantly drier-than-normal pattern. Above-normal precipitation earlier in the winter resulted in a predominantly wet pattern at six to nine months, but earlier dryness shows up at the interior stations at longer time scales (last 12, 24, and 36 months). March temperatures were warmer than normal in the north and cooler than normal in the south, reflecting the monthly upper-level circulation pattern. Likewise, the unusual warmth of January-March was associated with above-normal 500-mb heights from a dominant upper-level ridge. The water-year-to-date (October-March) wetness and March dryness are reflected in the high elevation (SNOTEL) stations, with March snow water content generally below normal. Drought disappeared and abnormal dryness shrank on the USDM map, largely due to the lagged effects of above-normal precipitation earlier in the season.

Puerto Rico: March 2014 was wetter than normal across the southwestern fourth of Puerto Rico but drier than normal across the rest of the island. A similar pattern is evident for the last two to three months, with the greatest dryness in the north central areas. Rainfall deficits of six to eight inches are evident here for the last three months. For the last six months, the area of greatest dryness shifts to the central to south central parts of the island, where deficits range from 12 to 20 inches. March streamflows were below to much below normal at several stations. The abnormally dry area nearly doubled on the USDM map compared to last month, with nearly half (45 percent) of the island rated abnormally dry.

CONUS State Ranks:

Current month state precipitation ranks Iowa statewide precipitation, March, 1895-2014

The March precipitation anomaly pattern of dryness in the Southwest, Great Plains, Midwest, and Central Appalachians was reflected in the state ranks, with 19 states having March precipitation ranks in the dry third of the historical record, three of which ranked in the top ten driest category. Iowa had the eighth driest March in the 1895-2014 record, and Illinois and Kansas ranked tenth driest. The SPI measures water supply (precipitation), while the SPEI (Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index) measures the combination of water supply (precipitation) and water demand (evapotranspiration as computed from temperature). The unusual warmth in the Southwest exacerbated the drought conditions as seen by more severe SPEI drought values when compared to the SPI values. Likewise, the unusually colder-than-normal temperatures east of the Rockies reduced water demand, as reflected by less severe SPEI drought values when compared to the SPI values in the Great Plains to Midwest.

3-month state precipitation ranks Missouri statewide precipitation, January-March, 1895-2014

The January-March 2014 precipitation anomaly pattern of dryness in the Southwest, Great Plains, Midwest, and Southeast was reflected in the state ranks. Half (25) of the states ranked in the driest third of the historical record, with seven of them having the tenth driest, or drier, start to the year. These "top ten driest" states included New Mexico (third driest January-March), Missouri (fourth driest), Texas and Oklahoma (both sixth driest), Kansas (seventh driest), Nebraska (eighth driest), and Arizona (ninth driest). The unusual warmth in the Southwest, and coolness in the east, persisted through the winter months, with California and Arizona having the warmest January-March on record. As with March, the year-to-date warmth in the Southwest exacerbated the drought conditions as seen by more severe SPEI drought values when compared to the SPI values, and the below-normal temperatures in the east reduced the SPEI drought values when compared to the SPI values.

Current 6-month state precipitation ranks California statewide precipitation, October-March, 1895-2014

Most of the country was drier than normal during October 2013-March 2014, but the primary dry areas were the West Coast, Southwest, and Southern Plains to Midwest. California had its third driest October-March and sixteen other states ranked in the driest third of the historical record. The temperature anomaly pattern of unusual warmth in the West and coolness east of the Rockies was evident at the 6-month time scale, with California and Arizona having a top ten warmest October-March while ten states (mostly along the Mississippi and Ohio valleys) ranked top ten coldest. Evapotranspiration is greatly reduced during winter, yet the temperature extremes still resulted in slightly enhanced SPEI drought values in the Southwest and reduced SPEI values east of the Rockies when compared to the SPI values.

12-month state precipitation ranks California statewide precipitation, April-March, 1895-2014

California statewide temperature, April-March, 1895-2014

For the last twelve months (April 2013-March 2014), dryness dominated California, Nevada, and the Southern Plains, with dry areas in the Southwest, Central Plains, and Midwest. California was especially hard hit, having the second driest April-March on record, in spite of the February and March 2014 precipitation. Nevada and Texas ranked in the driest third of the historical record. States in the Southwest, Central Plains, and Midwest ranked near- to above-normal because of pockets of wetter-than-average weather which influenced the statewide ranks. The West has experienced unusual warmth for most of the last twelve months. California and Arizona had the warmest April-March in the 1895-2014 record, with 2014 capping a remarkable warming trend for each. Nevada had the second warmest, and Idaho eighth warmest, April-March, with nine other states (in the West and along the East Coast) ranking in the warmest third of the historical record. The record warmth in California exacerbated the drought conditions as seen by more severe SPEI drought values when compared to the SPI values. Likewise, the persistent and unusually colder-than-normal temperatures east of the Rockies have reduced the severity of drought in the Plains as seen by less severe SPEI values when compared to SPI values.

Western U.S.


Percent area of the Western U.S. in moderate to extreme drought, January 1900 to present, based on the Palmer Drought Index
Percent area of the Western U.S. in moderate to extreme drought, January 1900 to present, based on the Palmer Drought Index.

As noted above, dry weather has dominated the West for the last several months, resulting in reduced mountain snowpack and lake, reservoir, and stream levels. According to the USDM, 60.2 percent of the West was experiencing moderate to exceptional drought at the end of March, an increase of about 0.8 percent compared to the previous month. Beneficial precipitation improved conditions in the north, but continued dryness and increased water demand due to the unusually warm temperatures expanded and intensified drought in the south. This resulted in a net increase in drought area as measured by the USDM. The Palmer Drought Index percent area statistic was 51.2 percent, a decrease of about 7 percentage points from the previous month. Likewise, this reflected contraction of drought in the Pacific Northwest and expansion in the Southwest (PDSI for March vs. February), except in this case there was more contraction than expansion.


Percent Area of the Western U.S. in Moderate to Extreme Drought, January 1996-present, based on the Palmer Drought Index California statewide precipitation, 30-month periods October-March, 1895-2014

California statewide precipitation departure from normal, January 2008-March 2014
California statewide precipitation departure from normal, January 2008-March 2014.

California has been persistently dry, with much below-normal precipitation for the last three wet seasons. The 30-month period, October 2011-March 2014, which includes the last three wet seasons, is the driest such 30-month period, statewide, in the 1895-2014 record. The combination of below-normal precipitation and above-normal evapotranspiration from unusually warm temperatures, as seen in the SPEI for the last 24 to 36 months, has resulted in near-record dry PDSI values for several climate divisions in southern California. These include the Central Coastal Drainage (climate division 4), San Joaquin Valley (climate division 5), and South Coastal Drainage (climate division 6).

New Mexico statewide precipitation departure from normal, January 2008-March 2014 New Mexico statewide precipitation, 42-month periods October-March, 1895-2014

SPEI map for the 36 months ending March 2014
SPEI map for the 36 months ending March 2014.

New Mexico has generally been drier than normal since October 2010. The combination of long-term dryness and unusually warm temperatures have resulted in extremely dry SPEI values for the New Mexico-Texas panhandle area at 36 to 48 months. There have been intermittent short wet periods during that time, but even with these wet interludes, October 2010-March 2014 ranked as the third driest such 42-month period in the 1895-2014 record. The driest such period was the 42-month period ending in March 1954, followed by the period ending in March 1957 as second driest, with 1956, 1953, and 1955 following as fourth, fifth, and sixth driest such 42-month periods, respectively, and 2013 seventh driest. The preliminary statewide precipitation value for October 2010-March 2014 was 34.12 inches, while the October 1950-March 1954 total was 32.97 inches. If the monsoon and synoptic rainfall of July (3.50 inches) and September (4.16 inches) 2013 hadn't occurred, the October 2010-March 2014 total would be 26.46 inches, easily surpassing the record low value.

As mentioned above, the October 2010-March 2014 period has also been dry in the adjoining High Plains areas of Texas and Oklahoma. The Texas Panhandle (High Plains, climate division 1) had the driest October-March 42-month period in 2010-2014, surpassing similar dry periods in the 1950s. Texas stations in or near the High Plains climate division, which have had record low precipitation for this 42-month period, include Amarillo, Dalhart, Lubbock, and Wichita Falls. While not record low, the dryness of October 2010-March 2014 rivals similar 42-month periods of the 1930s and 1950s drought decades in the Oklahoma Panhandle (climate division 1).

42-month precipitation, October-March, 1895-2014, for the Texas Panhandle 42-month precipitation, October-March, 1895-2014, for Dalhart, Texas

Agricultural Belts


Primary Hard Red Winter Wheat Belt precipitation, current month, 1895-2014
Primary Hard Red Winter Wheat Belt precipitation, current month, 1895-2014.
Primary Hard Red Winter Wheat Belt precipitation, growing season, 1895-2014
Primary Hard Red Winter Wheat Belt precipitation, growing season, 1895-2014.

Primary Corn and Soybean Belt precipitation, March, 1895-2014
Primary Corn and Soybean Belt precipitation, March, 1895-2014.

The March precipitation pattern for the Primary Hard Red Winter Wheat agricultural belt was much drier than normal, with March 2014 ranking as the 13th driest and 44th coolest March region-wide. The growing season to date (October 1-present) ranked as the 18th driest and 31st coolest October-March.

The growing season for the Primary Corn and Soybean agricultural belt got off to a dry start with March 2014 ranking as the eleventh driest and 19th coolest March on record.

NOAA Regional Climate Centers:


A more detailed drought discussion, provided by the NOAA Regional Climate Centers and others, can be found below.

SoutheastSouthMidwestNortheastHigh Plains
WestPacific Islands

As described by the High Plains Regional Climate Center, March 2014 was another chilly month for the High Plains region. Following the general pattern from last month, northwest flow brought many cold snaps which resulted in below normal temperatures for the eastern half of the region. It was also a dry month for most of the High Plains region. The majority of the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Kansas were quite dry with precipitation totals largely below 50 percent of normal. A large area of eastern Nebraska and central Kansas received at best 25 percent of normal precipitation. Now that winter is over, precipitation deficits can accumulate quite quickly and this lack of precipitation led to the reemergence of drought conditions in eastern parts of Nebraska and Kansas. Luckily the spring green-up is lagging due to the cooler temperatures and demand for water has not been high. The only areas receiving ample precipitation were northern and central Wyoming and north-central Colorado. The snowpack continued to build over the past month with both Colorado and Wyoming increasing their statewide totals. Like last month, the southern basins in Colorado were still running below average, but other basins were near to above normal. This brought Colorado's statewide average at the end of March to 114 percent — up slightly from last month's 111 percent. Meanwhile, every basin in Wyoming was above average with the statewide snowpack at 138 percent of average, also up from last month's 132 percent. This ample snowpack in the Rockies is in stark contrast to the past two years when the snowpack was well below normal.

The first month of spring did not bring much needed precipitation to the drought areas of the High Plains region. As noted earlier, most areas of the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Kansas received less than 50 percent of normal precipitation. A large area of the eastern sides of Kansas and Nebraska received less than 25 percent of normal precipitation which led to degradations. Much of eastern Kansas went from abnormally dry conditions (D0) to moderate drought conditions (D1). The extreme drought conditions (D3) in the western part of the state expanded as well. In Nebraska, severe drought conditions (D2) expanded eastward and a new area of D1 developed in the southeast. The only areas with improvements were eastern Wyoming and central Colorado where ample precipitation has fallen.

As explained by the Southern Regional Climate Center, cold temperatures continued into March for the Southern region, with all six states experiencing below normal temperatures throughout the month. March was generally drier than normal for most of the Southern region. Conditions were very dry throughout most of Oklahoma and especially in the western half of the state where precipitation totals ranged between 0 to twenty-five percent of normal. Similar anomalies were observed in the central to west central counties of Texas. Elsewhere, precipitation totals ranged from fifty to ninety percent of normal, with the exception of a few small areas that received normal to above normal precipitation.

Drought conditions in the Southern region changed significantly over the past month. Persistently dry conditions in March, especially in western Oklahoma, northern Texas and central Texas, led to an expansion of extreme drought. Last month, approximately six to seven percent of the Southern region was in extreme drought or worse. As of April 1, 2014, that number has increased to just over seventeen percent. Much of north central Oklahoma has also been downgraded by one factor from moderate drought to severe drought. Other areas of drought change include northern Mississippi, where several counties were now experiencing moderate drought conditions. In Texas, on top of the long-term hydrological problems are new short-term drought effects. Businesses along lakefronts were hurting and hydropower coming from the Colorado River and Lake Texoma was at an all-time low due to continued low streamflows. Fire conditions in west Texas were starting to become more of an issue as temperatures begin rising, with two small grass fires already having occurred in Palo Duro Canyon State Park and Smith County. Farmers were worried that a new dust bowl may develop in the Panhandle due to record low rainfall, and continuous dust storms that have brought soil from the Panhandle all the way to Dallas, El Paso, and Austin (Information provided by the Texas Office of State Climatology).

As summarized by the Midwest Regional Climate Center, March temperatures were below normal across the Midwest andMarch precipitation was below normal for nearly the entire Midwest. This was the fifth straight month with below normal temperatures for the region as a whole. Rainfall totals were as much as 2 inches (51 mm) below normal in Missouri, southern Iowa, and southwest Illinois. For the Midwest as a whole, March ranked in the driest 10 percent for the 120 years back to 1895. Despite the low precipitation totals, snowfall was above normal for many Midwest locations. The cold weather led to a higher percentage of the precipitation in the Midwest to fall as snow this March compared to normal. The cold winter and early spring have led to deep snow cover across the northern Midwest and thick ice on lakes in the northern states. Snow cover has retreated to the northern half of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan but the remaining snow is deeper than normal for this time of year with depths ranging from 6 inches (15 cm) to more than 3 feet (91 cm). The thick ice on lakes is up to several feet thick (91 cm or more) in some cases and the lakes are not likely to be ice free until after their median ice out dates.

As spring planting approaches, drought conditions remained in parts of the western half of the Midwest. Moderate drought areas extend into parts of Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Severe drought was reported only in Iowa. The eastern half of the region was drought free. Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky had no areas of abnormally dry according to the USDM.

As noted by the Southeast Regional Climate Center, monthly precipitation was below average across much of the Southeast in March. The driest locations were found across northern sections of Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and southwestern North Carolina, where monthly precipitation deficits of 2 to 4 inches (50.8 to 101.6 mm) were observed. Precipitation was also below average along the northern and eastern coasts of Puerto Rico, with San Juan recording its fifth driest March on record. In contrast, some locations recorded above average precipitation for the month, including portions of central Alabama and North Carolina, as well much of the Florida Panhandle. Mean temperatures in March were below average across much of the Southeast region, except across South Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where mean temperatures were near average to slightly above average for the month. After tying its third warmest February on record, San Juan, PR tied its fourth warmest March in a record extending back to 1898. Small changes were noted in the USDM across the Southeast in March. An area of moderate drought (D1) emerged across extreme northwestern Alabama, while small areas of abnormally dry conditions (D0) were introduced across central Alabama, northern Georgia, and extreme southwestern North Carolina where precipitation deficits and reductions in stream flows in recent months have been greatest. The cold weather in March delayed the planting of some field crops in Georgia and may have caused damage to peaches. While the dry conditions across the state allowed farmers to prepare fields for the planting season, heavy rains and flooding across parts of the Florida delayed fieldwork and reduced hay supplies.

As explained by the Northeast Regional Climate Center, overall the Northeast was drier than normal during March, with 3.23 inches (82.04 mm) of precipitation or 92 percent of normal, and colder-than-normal temperatures lingered through March in the region. Seven states were drier than normal, with Pennsylvania and West Virginia the driest at 75 percent of normal precipitation. Departures for the other dry states ranged from 89 to 95 percent of normal. Massachusetts wrapped up March at normal, while four states were wetter than normal. According to the USDM released on March 6, parts of northern New England, southern New England, New York, and Pennsylvania (totaling 4 percent of the Northeast) were abnormally dry. Those areas remained dry through the month.

As summarized by the Western Regional Climate Center, a series of atmospheric river events brought above normal precipitation to the Northwest for the second consecutive month. The Southwest continued to see predominantly drier than normal conditions, though precipitation was more plentiful than in February. Temperatures were generally mild and seasonable throughout the West, with the Southwest experiencing slightly warmer than normal temperatures, and the northern tier of the region colder than normal temperatures. Across the West, snowpack generally increased or held steady as a percent of average through the month. The greatest gains in snowpack were observed in the northern Cascades and Rockies, while areas of the southern Rockies and mountain ranges of Arizona and New Mexico experienced a decrease. Despite this month's snowfall, a wide swath of below normal snowpack remains stretching from southern Oregon through California eastward to New Mexico. At month's end, California's statewide snow water equivalent was only 32% of average.

A wet Pacific storm brought significant precipitation to the Southwest over the first two days of March, though little to no precipitation was recorded for the remainder of the month. Precipitation in Flagstaff, Arizona, totaled 1.24 in (31 mm), with 1.13 in (29 mm) falling on the first two days of the month. This was the 20th driest March since Flagstaff's records began in 1893. Below normal precipitation was observed in New Mexico as well, where Albuquerque recorded only 0.22 in (6 mm), 39% of normal. Las Vegas, Nevada, recorded no precipitation this month, tied with 6 other years for driest March since records began in 1937. Drier than normal conditions also prevailed in central and southern California, where Fresno logged 31% of its normal rainfall at 0.62 in (16 mm) for the 18th driest March in the last 67 years. Los Angeles recorded 1.18 in (30 mm) for the month, 49% of normal. All but 0.01 in (less than 1 mm) of this rainfall came over the first 2 days of the month. California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona all saw large areas of worsening drought conditions during March. Dry conditions this winter led to an early start to the fire season in the Arizona. The fire season typically begins in May, though 190 small fires had already occurred year-to-date by March 27.

Cooler than normal temperatures were observed in the northern tier of the West, while warmer than normal temperatures dominated across the Southwest. Cut Bank, Montana, recorded an average 25.3 F (-3.7 C) for the month, 6.2 F (3.4 C) below normal and the 25th coldest March in a 112-year record. Further south, temperatures in Salt Lake City, Utah, averaged to 49 F (9.4 C), 5.4 F (3 C) above normal and the third warmest March since records began in 1928. In central California, this March replaced March 2013 as Fresno's second warmest in a 67-year record at an average 62.4 F (16.9 C). In southern California, San Diego saw its warmest March on record at 64.1 F (17.8 C), 4.7 F (2.6 C) above normal. Records for San Diego began in 1939. Arizona saw warmer than normal temperatures as well. Phoenix recorded an average of 69 F (20.6 C), the 7th warmest March since records began in 1933 and the third consecutive month that average temperatures at Phoenix have been among the top-10 on record.

After a drier than normal February, wet conditions returned to Hawaii's windward areas. Kahului, Maui recorded 3.75 in (95 mm) of precipitation this month, 153% of normal and the 18th wettest March in 80 years of record-keeping. Further north, this month was drier than normal for much of Alaska. Yakutat received 4.05 in (103 mm) of rainfall this month, 37% of normal and the 9th driest March since records began in 1917. McGrath also experienced its 9th driest March with 0.04 in (1 mm), 5% of normal. Records at McGrath began in 1939. Temperatures were near normal throughout Alaska, with a gradient of warmer than normal temperatures in the northwest to slightly cooler than normal temperatures in the southeast. Extreme warmth was observed along the North Slope, where Barrow recorded an average -4.8 F (-20.4 C) for the month, the 3rd warmest March in approximately 94 years of records. Barrow experienced its warmest January-March on record in 2014 with temperatures averaging -6.0 F (-21.1 C), exceeding the previous record of -7.3 F (-21.8 C) set for this period in 1963.

Pacific Islands: According to reports from National Weather Service offices, the Pacific ENSO Applications Climate Center (PEAC), and partners, conditions varied across the Pacific Islands.

As noted by the National Weather Service office in Honolulu, heavy rain events continued to affect the eastern counties through March which helped ease dryness, especially along the windward slopes. At this time, the main drought concern is the area serviced by the Kualapuu reservoir in west Molokai. The area has long been under extreme drought, or the D3 category in the USDM map due to low water levels which have forced mandatory restrictions in irrigation water use. However, information received today indicated that restrictions will be eased somewhat as water supply levels have risen over the past several weeks. This will result in a change to the D2 category, which is labeled as severe drought. The remainder of Molokai was drought-free along with Kauai, Oahu, lanai and Kahoolawe. Moderate drought, or the D1 category, remained over the lower leeward Maui slopes near Kihei and over the leeward slopes of the Big Island from the lower south Kohala district to the Humuula Saddle and the upper slopes of Mauna Loa. An evaluation of March rainfall and field conditions may result in a reduction of D1 coverage in the next USDM map.

Some drought impacts impacts in Hawaii include the following:

KAUAI.
THERE ARE NO DROUGHT IMPACTS TO REPORT.

OAHU.
THERE ARE NO DROUGHT IMPACTS TO REPORT.

MOLOKAI.
THE WATER LEVEL IN THE KUALAPUU RESERVOIR HAS CONTINUED TO INCREASE
IN RECENT WEEKS WHICH RESULTED IN THE ABOVE-MENTIONED EASING OF
RESTRICTIONS IN IRRIGATION WATER USE BY THE STATE OF HAWAII
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.  THE CHANGE IN RESTRICTIONS WILL GO FROM
A MANDATORY 30 PERCENT CUTBACK TO A MANDATORY 20 PERCENT CUTBACK.

LANAI.
THERE ARE NO DROUGHT IMPACTS TO REPORT.

MAUI.
PASTURE AND GENERAL VEGETATION CONDITIONS HAVE CONTINUED TO IMPROVE
OVER THE PAST SEVERAL WEEKS. WATER LEVELS IN RESERVOIRS SUPPLYING
RESIDENTS IN THE UPCOUNTRY AREA OF THE ISLAND HAVE REMAINED AT
ADEQUATE LEVELS. THE MAUI COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF WATER SUPPLY HAS
CONTINUED ITS LONG STANDING REQUEST FOR CENTRAL AND SOUTH MAUI
RESIDENTS TO VOLUNTARILY REDUCE CONSUMPTION BY 10 PERCENT.

BIG ISLAND.
REPORTS INDICATED THAT LEEWARD PASTURES HAVE NOT BEEN THIS GREEN IN
SEVERAL YEARS.  ABOVE AVERAGE RAINFALL ALONG THE WINDWARD SLOPES
HAVE ALSO HELPED BOOST CATCHMENT WATER SUPPLIES.

SPI values for seven time periods for Hawaiian Island stations, computed by the Honolulu NWS office.
SPI values for seven time periods for Hawaiian Island stations

On other Pacific Islands (maps — Micronesia, Marshall Islands, basinwide), March 2014 was drier than normal at Koror, Chuuk, Kapingamarangi, Kosrae, Majuro, and Pago Pago, and wetter than normal at the other reporting stations. The March rainfall amounts were below 4 inches (a critical threshold amount for the Mariana Islands) at Guam and Saipan, below 8 inches (another critical threshold amount) at Chuuk, Koror, Majuro, Pago Pago, and Yap, and above 8 inches at the other stations. The 4- and 8-inch thresholds are important because, if monthly precipitation falls below the threshold, then drought becomes a concern. Even though March 2014 rainfall was below these thresholds at Guam, Saipan, and Yap, they were above normal because this is the dry season at these stations and their March normals are very low — well below the thresholds.

Recent showers have reduced drought severity in the Marshall Islands, but dry weather still affects the far northern Marshall Islands where drought conditions persisted. Beneficial rain has fallen during the last several months at Kwajalein and Majuro and other southern islands, with the Majuro reservoir at two-thirds of its capacity. To the north, there is concern about insufficient rain for water catchments in the northern islands, and damage to food crops may have occurred on smaller islands and atolls. Utirik received 1.60 inches of rain in February and 5.58 inches in March, and Wotje received 3.39 inches in February and 2.45 inches in March — these amounts are below the critical thresholds for drought. This is a continuation of very dry conditions for these northern stations. For January, Utirik received 0.68 inch and Wotje 0.69 inch, while December totals were 0.49 inch at Utirik and 1.28 inches at Wotje.

Several stations in the region experienced persistent dryness at some point in the last twelve months. Kosrae was drier than normal for the last three months (January-March 2014), Majuro and Pago Pago were drier than normal at the six month timescale (October 2013-March 2014), and Kosrae and Majuro — as well as Koror, Kapingamarangi, and Pohnpei — were drier than normal at the twelve-month timescale (April 2013-March 2014).


X
  • Percent of Normal Precip
  • Precipitation
  • Normals
Pacific Island Percent of 1981-2010 Normal Median Precipitation
Station NameApr
2013
May
2013
Jun
2013
Jul
2013
Aug
2013
Sep
2013
Oct
2013
Nov
2013
Dec
2013
Jan
2014
Feb
2014
Mar
2014
Apr 2013-
Mar 2014
Chuuk49%79%84%84%80%141%103%111%75%59%492%89%104%
Guam NAS45%103%102%53%74%255%198%56%65%421%170%141%116%
Kapingamarangi77%48%47%50%83%55%85%38%254%168%112%81%77%
Koror103%109%67%64%99%64%86%115%64%170%91%68%82%
Kosrae95%76%122%69%62%104%201%112%87%86%104%82%82%
Kwajalein178%29%67%98%57%82%37%121%39%121%523%475%99%
Lukonor71%92%64%37%62%117%118%125%90%257%206%138%93%
Majuro69%65%96%103%65%87%71%96%51%125%177%91%86%
Pago Pago144%66%220%153%337%125%62%58%99%146%97%65%103%
Pohnpei59%52%113%61%38%121%81%142%36%78%225%112%84%
Saipan63%203%157%50%53%167%109%52%71%546%55%167%108%
Yap50%69%134%53%86%181%144%74%65%340%91%153%110%
Pacific Island Precipitation (Inches)
Station NameApr
2013
May
2013
Jun
2013
Jul
2013
Aug
2013
Sep
2013
Oct
2013
Nov
2013
Dec
2013
Jan
2014
Feb
2014
Mar
2014
Apr 2013-
Mar 2014
Chuuk6.118.939.8510.0410.2516.4911.8211.828.445.9835.707.43142.86
Guam NAS1.143.516.325.3910.8432.2522.664.133.3316.895.142.91114.51
Kapingamarangi10.515.846.457.116.725.426.993.4925.0215.3810.369.26112.55
Koror7.5712.8711.7011.9413.357.5310.1913.117.1917.277.795.08125.59
Kosrae16.7113.4117.8910.338.8014.8222.0315.5413.9414.3913.4713.12174.45
Kwajalein9.341.974.669.715.518.814.1713.632.623.8113.8211.1789.22
Lukonor8.0610.777.515.888.6411.9213.3411.3810.1121.6518.4212.76140.44
Majuro6.466.6010.5511.517.629.709.0112.845.769.6612.195.96107.86
Pago Pago13.526.3511.758.4818.148.145.715.9112.7119.5411.656.95128.85
Pohnpei10.9210.4416.799.425.4115.2312.3720.995.7910.2721.5014.70153.83
Saipan1.654.825.684.426.9916.8711.602.912.7413.811.433.1676.08
Yap2.815.4116.168.0112.6924.3917.606.565.5621.744.726.99132.64
Pacific Island 1981-2010 Normal Median Precipitation (Inches)
Station NameApr
2013
May
2013
Jun
2013
Jul
2013
Aug
2013
Sep
2013
Oct
2013
Nov
2013
Dec
2013
Jan
2014
Feb
2014
Mar
2014
Apr 2013-
Mar 2014
Chuuk12.4711.3011.6611.9812.8611.7111.5110.6111.2510.107.258.32136.77
Guam NAS2.533.406.1810.1414.7412.6611.447.385.114.013.032.0799.09
Kapingamarangi13.6412.0813.7814.158.139.938.199.279.849.159.2711.43145.85
Koror7.3211.8317.4818.5313.5011.7711.8411.3911.1610.188.567.44152.90
Kosrae17.5117.7514.6414.9114.2214.2210.9413.8316.1116.6712.9316.06213.87
Kwajalein5.266.726.939.879.7410.7411.1811.286.663.162.642.3590.41
Lukonor11.3111.6911.6515.9314.0410.1511.329.0811.278.418.939.26151.36
Majuro9.4210.1111.0111.1711.6911.1712.7313.4411.397.746.886.58125.25
Pago Pago9.399.665.335.555.386.539.2610.1412.8413.3412.0010.68125.57
Pohnpei18.4119.9614.8115.4314.2612.5515.2714.8316.0813.189.5513.17182.36
Saipan2.632.383.628.9113.1310.0910.625.613.852.532.591.8970.25
Yap5.637.8512.0415.0814.8213.5012.188.838.516.395.194.56120.31

Percent of normal precipitation for current month for U.S. Affiliated Pacific Island stations

Percent of normal precipitation for last 3 months for U.S. Affiliated Pacific Island stations

Percent of normal precipitation for last 6 months for U.S. Affiliated Pacific Island stations

Percent of normal precipitation for last 12 months for U.S. Affiliated Pacific Island stations

SPI values for seven time periods for Pacific Islands, computed by the Honolulu NWS office.
SPI values for seven time periods for Pacific Islands

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State/Regional/National Moisture Status
A detailed review of drought and moisture conditions is available for all contiguous U.S. states, the nine standard regions, and the nation (contiguous U.S.):

States
alabama arizona arkansas california colorado connecticut
delaware florida georgia idaho illinois indiana
iowa kansas kentucky louisiana maine maryland
massachusetts michigan minnesota mississippi missouri montana
nebraska nevada new hampshire new jersey new mexico new york
north carolina north dakota ohio oklahoma oregon pennsylvania
rhode island south carolina south dakota tennessee texas utah
vermont virginia washington west virginia wisconsin wyoming

Regional
northeast u. s. east north central u. s. central u. s.
southeast u. s. west north central u. s. south u. s.
southwest u. s. northwest u. s. west u. s.

National
Contiguous United States

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Contacts & Questions
For additional, or more localized, drought information, please visit:

Citing This Report

NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: Drought for March 2014, published online April 2014, retrieved on July 24, 2014 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/drought/2014/3.