Maps released Oct. 1, 2020 | Data valid Sept. 29, 2020
This week’s drought summary: Tropical Storm Beta made landfall on Sept. 21 about 10 p.m. CDT near Port O’Connor, Texas, with sustained winds near 45 mph. Once inland, slow-moving Beta weakened and turned northeastward, crossing the Mississippi Delta before dissipating on Sept. 25 over the Southeast. Nevertheless, heavy rainfall associated with Beta caused local flooding, especially along and near the middle and upper Texas coast.
Beta’s heavy rain tracked across an area (centered on Mississippi) experiencing abnormal dryness (D0) and moderate drought (D1), leading to a significant boost in soil moisture. Mostly dry weather covered the remainder of the country, aside from a few showers in the upper Great Lakes region and some beneficial precipitation in the Northwest.
Across much of the Plains and Midwest, open weather favored agricultural fieldwork but further reduced topsoil moisture in drought-affected areas. In fact, worsening drought remained a major concern across much of the western half of the country, with adverse impacts on rangeland and pastures. In addition, the return of hot, windy weather fanned several new Western wildfires.
Near- or above-normal temperatures prevailed in the West, with the hottest weather occurring in the Four Corners States. As the drought-monitoring period ended on Sept. 29, approaching heavy rain brought the promise of relief to the Northeast, enduring its second major drought in five years.
South: The remnant circulation of Tropical Storm Beta tracked across the area of abnormal dryness (D0) and moderate drought (D1) centered on Mississippi. Sept. 21-24 rainfall topped four inches in locations such as Natchez, Mississippi (5.35 inches); Monroe, Louisiana (4.83 inches); and Texarkana, Arkansas (4.13 inches).
Following Beta’s passage, D1 was eliminated from Mississippi. However, southeast of Beta’s area of influence, parts of East Mississippi saw mounting short-term precipitation deficits and a corresponding increase in D0 coverage.
Parts of Central Texas continued to benefit from recent heavy rainfall, while conditions rapidly worsened across the High Plains of Texas and Oklahoma. In fact, two new areas of exceptional drought (D4) were introduced in West Texas. Through Sept. 29, year-to-date precipitation in Midland totaled just 6.84 inches (59% of normal).
In Texas’ northern Panhandle, year-to-date precipitation had not yet reached the nine-inch mark in Borger and Dalhart. Borger’s 8.87-inch total was 48% of normal. On Sept. 27, Texas led the country — among major production states — in cotton rated very poor to poor (35%). Oklahoma led the nation with 47% of its sorghum rated very poor to poor, according to USDA.
Looking ahead: Unusually cold air will surge across the Midwest, eventually reaching much of the eastern half of the United States. By Oct. 2-3, widespread freezes should occur from Nebraska and the Dakotas into the Great Lakes region. A secondary push of cold air will subsequently deliver additional freezes across the Northern Plains and upper Midwest.
In contrast, significantly above-normal temperatures west of the Rockies during the next five days will accompany completely dry weather. Elsewhere, periods of light precipitation may occur across much of the eastern half of the country, while locally heavy showers will linger for several days across Florida’s peninsula. A tropical wave over the western Caribbean Sea will continue to move generally westward with some potential for development during the weekend and beyond.
The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for Oct. 6 – 10 calls for the likelihood of near- or below-normal temperatures in the eastern United States, except across Florida’s peninsula, while warmer-than-normal weather will prevail from the Pacific Coast to the Plains and upper Midwest. Meanwhile, near- or below-normal precipitation across most of the country should contrast with wetter-than-normal weather in northern Maine, much of Florida, and the Pacific Northwest.