The storm that unloaded more than a foot of snow on parts of Kansas and Nebraska this week may contribute to easing, but not eliminating, drought conditions for the stricken area.
Rain and snow from the storm “will put a noticeable dent in the Great Drought of 2012-2013 over the Midwest,” Jeff Masters, director of meteorology for Weather Underground, noted in his blog Thursday.
There is expected to be even more snow and rain when a second storm moves through the region, forecast for this Monday, Masters writes.
The core drought region in the Midwest needs three to nine inches of precipitation to end the drought. The inch of precipitation from the coming week’s rain and snow “will take them at least 10% towards that goal,” he adds.
“Still, the economic value of the rain and snow from the two storms is in the billions of dollars. In addition, runoff from the storms will insure that barge traffic on the Mississippi River will be able to operate well into summer,” Masters writes.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that from Feb. 22 to 24, moderate to heavy precipitation is forecast across the eastern third of the country, heavy rain across the southeast along a slow-moving boundary and, rain and snow for the northwest. “A rather energetic low-pressure system is currently located in the middle Mississippi River Valley and will continue to track northeastward into the Upper Great Lakes over the next several days,” bringing with it light to moderate snow that becomes less intense with time, NOAA adds.
The agency’s latest Seasonal Drought Oulook, released yesterday, is valid for Feb. 21 to May 21. There are enhanced chances for above-normal spring precipitation from the Mississippi Valley eastward into the Great Lakes region, and moderate precipitation is forecast for the remainder of February into early March, the outlook states. As such, drought conditions are expected to improve.
In the Southeast, between three and seven inches of rainfall is anticipated in a broad stripe from the Louisiana Bayou northeastward through the western Florida Panhandle, southeastern Alabama and interior Georgia during the last week of February.
“Given the amounts of rain forecast in the short term, drought is expected to be less intense by the end of May than it is currently. However, any recovery will occur very slowly, as it will take time for any increased rainfall to chip away at the large moisture deficits that have accumulated over the course of a multi-year drought,” the outlook adds.
After Monday’s storm, Masters notes that two models “predict that the jet stream will return to the pattern it was in for the first six weeks of 2013, meaning that precipitation-bearing storms will continue to miss the Midwest through at least the first week of March. Given that this jet stream pattern has been very persistent for many months, it’s a good bet that drought will be a huge concern as we enter summer.”