Map released: Feb. 11, 2021 | Data valid Feb. 9, 2021
This week’s drought summary: A slow-moving coastal storm delivered heavy precipitation in parts of the Northeast on Jan. 31 – Feb. 1, with impacts (windy weather and snow showers) lingering for several days. Later, the focus for stormy weather briefly returned to the western U.S., although significant precipitation was confined to the northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest. By Feb. 4, wintry weather shifted into the upper Midwest, where blowing snow and gusty winds briefly resulted in blizzard conditions. The same weather system produced generally light rain across the South. Later, additional patchy precipitation fell in the central and eastern U.S., although dry weather prevailed during the drought-monitoring period across much of the nation’s southwestern quadrant. At the height of the early-February cold outbreak, temperatures plunged below -20°F across portions of the northern Plains and upper Midwest. Sub-zero readings occurred across a much larger area, extending southward across the central Plains and into the middle Mississippi Valley.
South: Despite a few showers, the general trend toward drier conditions continued, with some increasing coverage of abnormal dryness (D0) and moderate drought (D1) in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. During the first 40 days of the year (Jan. 1 – Feb. 9), precipitation ranged from one-third to one-half of normal in locations such as Crossville, Tennessee (3.02 inches, or 49% of normal); Meridian, Mississippi (3.24 inches, or 46%); Lake Charles, Louisiana (2.86 inches, or 45%); Greenville, Mississippi (2.95 inches, or 43%); Jackson, Tennessee (2.25 inches, or 41%); New Iberia, Louisiana (2.57 inches, or 40%); Lafayette, Louisiana (2.78 inches, or 39%); Monroe, Louisiana (2.43 inches, or 38%); Vicksburg, Mississippi (2.37 inches, or 36%); and New Orleans, Louisiana (2.39 inches, or 35%). Short-term dryness also extended westward to coastal Texas, where some D1 was introduced between Port O’Connor and Galveston. During the first 40 days of the year, rainfall in Galveston totaled just 0.81 inch (16% of normal). Meanwhile, persistent warmth accompanied dry weather in South Texas, resulting in growing coverage of moderate to extreme drought (D1 to D3). Drought deterioration was also noted on the High Plains, particularly in North Texas and portions of neighboring states. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, statewide topsoil moisture in Texas was rated 55% very short to short on Feb. 7, although agricultural district values were as high as 96% on the Northern High Plains (Amarillo area), 90% in the Lower Valley (Brownsville area), and 84% on the Southern High Plains (Lubbock area). In addition, 53% of Texas’ rangeland and pastures were rated in very poor to poor condition on that date, along with 31% of the winter wheat.
Looking ahead: During the next several days, multiple storm systems will travel along or near a boundary separating warm air across the Deep South from frigid conditions farther north. Where storm-related moisture overruns cold air, there will be a significant threat of wintry weather (e.g. snow, sleet, and freezing rain), leading to potential travel disruptions and power outages. The parade of storms will produce generally light snow across the Central Plains, Midwest, and Northeast, with periods of wintry precipitation expected from the Southern Plains to the mid-Atlantic. Five-day Southeastern rainfall totals could reach one to three inches or more, except across the southern tip of Florida. Much of the West will also experience multiple rounds of precipitation. Each passing storm system will help to draw cold air farther southward, leading to sub-zero weekend temperatures possibly as far south as North Texas.
The NWS 6-to 10-day outlook for Feb. 16 – 20 calls for the likelihood of colder-than-normal conditions nationwide, except for near-normal temperatures in southern California and above-normal temperatures along the southern Atlantic Coast. Meanwhile, near- or above-normal precipitation will occur in most areas of country, with drier-than-normal weather limited to southern California, the Desert Southwest, and the North-Central U.S.