NOAA Seasonal Drought Outlook – March, April, May

    Nearly 55% of the contiguous U.S. continues to experience drought conditions since late November 2021. Long-term drought is entrenched across much of the western half of the lower 48 states, with additional areas across the Upper Midwest, parts of the Carolinas and Maine, experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions.

    Seasonal snowpack is currently a mixed bag for much of the West, with above-normal snowpack over parts of the northwestern CONUS, but near to below-normal snowpack across the Great Basin and Sierra Nevada. However, farther east in the Great Plains, snowpack is completely absent from eastern-central Montana to the south-central High Plains.

    Ongoing La Niña favors drought improvement for eastern Washington and northern Idaho. Improvements are likely to continue across parts of Minnesota through the end of May.

    Ongoing La Niña conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean are tilting odds toward warmer and drier conditions as the March-April-May (MAM) season progresses, particularly across the southern Great Basin and Four Corners region.

    Parts of the Central and Southern Plains saw record warmth this Winter, accompanied by much below-normal precipitation, leading to drought expansion over these regions.

    United States Seasonal Drought Outlook Graphic - click on image to enlarge

    Click Image to Enlarge

    Drought is likely to persist and expand in coverage, as warmer and drier conditions are typical during La Niña seasons across these areas. Persistence is also favored across the western Gulf Coast and coastal portions of the Carolinas, with development likely along the western Gulf Coast, Atlantic Coast, and Florida for the same reasoning, and further supported by these areas entering into a climatological time of year for soil moisture discharge.

    From the interior Carolinas northeastward to New England, drought persistence and small areas of development are likely by the end of May, due to lack of precipitation signal and above normal temperatures across these areas favored for much of the MAM season, also further supported by these areas entering into a climatological time of year for soil moisture discharge.

    Alaska is likely to remain drought-free for the coming season. Drought improvement/removal (one class improvement) is favored for Hawaii. Drought removal is likely for Puerto Rico.

    Forecast confidence is moderate for Montana, and high elsewhere for the Western Region.

    • Below-normal precipitation was observed across much of the West during January. Ongoing La Niña has continued to bring above-normal precipitation across parts of the Pacific Northwest and Northern Rockies leading up to the MAM SDO release.
    • However, Oregon, California, Nevada, the Great Basin and Four Corners region have experienced a very dry start from early January, with extended-range forecasts indicating a likely dry end to the month, which will offset the much above-normal normal (in some cases record) precipitation observed in the latter half of December for several locations.
    • Long-term dryness is still a concern for many areas across the west, with most reservoirs still running below-normal and groundwater struggling to replenish.
    • The ongoing La Niña conditions throughout MAM favor a return to drier than normal conditions, particularly for southern California eastward to the Southwest. Conversely, the continuation of La Niña increases the likelihood for continued above-normal precipitation across parts of the Pacific Northwest eastward to the Northern Rockies.
    • In addition, monthly and seasonal outlooks favor below-normal temperatures across the Pacific Northwest, parts of northern California, and the northern Rockies, with near to above-normal temperatures indicated for the remainder of the West. As such, drought conditions are likely to improve for portions of eastern Washington, extending eastward to northern Idaho, with persistence likely elsewhere in the West.
    • In addition, the warmer and drier signals in the Southwest in the monthly and seasonal outlooks increase the potential for drought development in portions of southern Arizona and New Mexico.
    • Drought development is likely over the dry area in central Idaho due to below-normal precipitation in short-term to Week 2 forecasts and lack of precipitation signal in seasonal outlooks, the area also entering climatological favorable time of year for soil moisture discharge later in the period.

    Forecast confidence is low to moderate for the High Plains Region.

    • The monthly and seasonal outlooks both favor above-normal temperatures across the southern half of the region at both lead times, with increasing dry signals across most of the Central Plains as MAM progresses.
    • Across the northern half of the High Plains Region, temperature and precipitation signals disappear entirely. Given the time of year and lack of antecedent snowpack across much of the region (south and west of North Dakota), existing drought is likely to persist during the MAM.
    • The antecedent dryness, increasing dry signals as MAM progresses and lack of antecedent snowpack in the region indicate drought development is also likely across parts of the central High Plains.

    Forecast confidence is moderate to high for the Midwest Region.

    • The mature La Niña during MAM indicates likely above-normal precipitation across much of the Midwest.
    • Above-normal antecedent snowpack across northern Minnesota, and the potential for additional snow in the short-term associated with short-wave low pressure systems that move across the Great Lakes region, increase the potential for drought removal in areas experiencing moderate (D1) drought and improvement in severe (D2) drought areas.
    • In the remainder of the Upper Mississippi Valley, although precipitation signals are enhanced (>33% chance of above-normal precipitation during MAM), drought persistence is likely due to below-normal antecedent snowpack across areas.

    Forecast confidence is moderate to high for the Southern Region.

    • Above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation have been the main story across most of the Southern Region since Fall 2021, leading to widespread expansion of drought from the Southern Plains to the Lower Mississippi Valley.
    • During this time, Texas recorded its warmest Winter month on record, with the state-wide average December temperature reaching 59°F, beating the previous Winter month record of 58.4°F in February 2017, and smashing the old December record of 53.3°F set in 1933.
    • Long-term forecast guidance indicates a continuation of warm and dry conditions across most of the southern CONUS, with the strongest signals across western portions of the Southern Region in drought-stricken areas.
    • As such, drought is likely to persist through the end of May, with drought development likely along the western Gulf Coast.
    • The exception is across the area in LA/MS/AR where potentially 3″+ rainfall is forecast over the next two weeks. Drought improvement/removal is favored in this area.

    Forecast confidence is low to moderate for the Southeast Region.

    • Leading up to the MAM SDO release, drought conditions have slowly improved across the Carolinas and parts of Virginia.
    • Increased troughing across much of the eastern CONUS through the week-2 period, favoring near to above-normal precipitation along the northern portion of the region. However, beyond week 2, above-normal temperatures are favored for the entire season, with dry signals indicated along the coastal areas of the Southeast.
    • In addition, coastal portions of the Southeast are climatologically entering into a drier time of year during MAM and favorable time for soil moisture discharge.
    • The drier climatology coupled with the warm, dry La Niña signal indicate conditions in coastal areas, extending into the Florida Peninsula, are likely to deteriorate. Therefore, drought persistence is likely across coastal portions of the Carolinas and Georgia, with drought development likely along abnormal dryness areas (D0) of the Southeast and the Florida Peninsula.

    Forecast confidence is moderate to high for the Northeast Region.

    • Despite the monthly and seasonal precipitation outlooks favoring equal chances for above, below, or near-normal precipitation, above-normal temperatures are favored across the Northeast region. Additionally, the region is trending into its climatologically favorable time of year for soil moisture discharge.
    • Therefore, drought persistence is likely by the end of May for areas currently experiencing moderate (D1) and severe (D2) drought in northern New England. In addition, drought development is most likely in current abnormal dryness areas (D0) over this region.

    Forecast confidence is high for Alaska and Hawaii, and moderate for Puerto Rico.

    • In Alaska, the CPC extended range outlooks favor above-normal precipitation across the state. Long-lead outlooks favor near to above-normal precipitation over western and central Mainland Alaska and below-normal precipitation over southeast Alaska through the beginning of March. However, there are increased probabilities of near to below-normal temperatures in the long-range outlooks. Given the time of year in this region, Alaska is likely to remain drought-free.
    • Hawaii is currently experiencing moderate (D1) drought across much of the islands and severe (D2) drought in portions of Maui and Molokai. Long-lead outlooks favor above-normal precipitation throughout MAM. Therefore, drought removal/improvement is likely for Hawaii.
    • In Puerto Rico, wetter to near-normal rainfall signals are also favored during MAM and the region trending to its climatological wet season, leading to an increased likelihood for drought removal from the island.

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