2011: A Year of Precipitation in Map Form

Here is how much precipitation (rain and the melted moisture in snow) has fallen since 6am CST on January 1, 2011 until 6am this morning. Click to enlarge, scale at right.

While the eye is certainly drawn to the purples (more than 70″!) from the Missouri Bootheel to southern New York, those are not the largest departures from normal. Those can be seen in the map below:

The greatest deviation from normal on the plus side is in eastern Montana. This very heavy spring rainfall is what put the Missouri River above flood stage so many days this spring and summer.

The driest area is about the same longitude, the southern Rockies down to the Texas Big Bend where rainfall was less than 20% of normal.

Wider Drought Perspective

Reader asked for it, here it is. The map below is precipitation the last 60 days. Green = 2-4″ and red = 20″ (!) or more.

Yes, the drought continues to be quite severe in south Texas, New Mexico, and southeast Louisiana (the latter is getting rain right now).

Here is a map of percentage of normal precipitation the last 60 days. Scale at right.

Much-Needed Moisture

Here is a map of precipitation (rain and the moisture contained in the snow) from the recent storm. Badly, badly needed moisture west of I-135 north of Wichita and west of I-35 south of Wichita.

click to enlarge

Wheat farmers are rejoicing in most areas.

Below is the 60-day percent of normal map for the winter wheat belt. While the severe drought continues in the southern Rockies, the green through blue and violet colors indicates improvement with at least 125% of normal rainfall.

Drought Update

click to enlarge, NWS graphic

This graphic is the moisture recorded the last 30 days. In a nutshell, the drought has been eliminated or significantly dented east of Interstate 35 from Dallas; and east of I-45 from Dallas south*. Much more rain is needed to the west.

* Italics added as correction. See comments.

Good News: More Moisture. Bad News: Winter

A very slow moving low pressure system in the upper atmosphere predicted to linger over the Southwest is going to bring much-needed moisture to the region. Here is the precipitation amount forecast for the next ten days (via AccuWeather’s professional site, this is the European model):

click to enlarge

And, a significant amount of the moisture is going to fall in the form of snow. The graphic below are the probabilities of one inch or more of snow accumulation:

6pm Wednesday to 6pm Thursday

6pm Thursday to 6pm Friday

And, even heavier and more widespread snows will likely spread into the Plains Friday night and Saturday.

By Sunday morning, most of the Nation west of the Mississippi will be colder than average — in some areas much colder. Winter is coming!

Two Week’s Rainfall

Here is the rainfall across the U.S. the last two weeks:

Click to enlarge, NWS data

While the High Plains re still far too dry, rainfall has significantly eased the drought in the low Plains.

The drought in the Southeast has eased somewhat with good rains forecast the next 5 days (see below):

No serious travel problems in the form of ice, snow, or flooding are expected between now and Sunday night. Snow may fall Monday in parts of the mid-Mississippi Valley.

So How Did that Drought Forecast Work Out?

As a meteorologist, I have to be concerned about the quality of my forecasts. I always want to know whether they are correct.

On November 11, I posted a piece called Dagger in the Drought? where I forecast significant drought relief to the southern Plains between then and Thanksgiving. Since no rain is forecast in the region of interest tomorrow, we can go ahead the validate that forecast.

Here is the map I presented on the eleventh:

And, below here is the actual rainfall from the 11th to today:

click to enlarge, data from NWS

The forecast rainfall between the DFW Metroplex south to I-10 between Houston and San Antonio is too high. Elsewhere, the forecast is quite good (considering it is a 13-day forecast) right down to the dry area from western Kansas into northeast New Mexico.

The purple on the lower map represents areas where 10 inches or more fell. Those areas were entirely within the European model’s forecast area of 5 inches or more. Remarkable!

When I made the forecast, I was expecting a third storm on Thanksgiving day. Turns out the models were about 24-30 hours too fast. It will move across the Plains during the calendar day Friday and into the pre-dawn hours Saturday. More helpful rain expected.

Considering how far into the future this forecast stretched, I’d give it an A-, with the minus for the over forecast in central Texas where rains were lighter than forecast.

What grade would you give it? Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments.

How is that Drought Relief Coming?

Sunday, I wrote a posting, “Dagger in the Drought?” where I predicted that significant drought relief would occur along and south of I-44 in Oklahoma and Texas by Thanksgiving.

How is the forecast coming? Here is how much rain has fallen since the forecast was made:

NWS graphic, click to enlarge

One inch or more of run was widespread from Laredo and Del Rio, TX into Arkansas with very heavy rains from southeast Oklahoma through the northern half of Arkansas. So far, so good with round 1 of the rain.

Here is a forecast for rainfall from now through midnight Thanksgiving evening:

NWS GFS model from data ending 6pm Friday

The orange areas within the red are forecast amounts between 4 and 5 inches. If you add up the amount of rain that has already fallen with what is forecast, Sunday’s original forecast still looks quite good.

But, if we add another 18 hours to the above total rainfall forecast (from now through 6pm Friday), you see even heavier rains in the drought area:

The bright orange area from just north of Dallas to the Ozarks is more than 5 inches!  If this forecast is correct, it would — when combined with the rains that have already fallen — be quite significant.

Finally, there is another — large — storm system behind the one for late next week. Take a look at the total rainfall forecast from 6pm, Friday, November 25 to 6pm December 5th:

That is an additional 3 inches or more over the east halves of Texas and Oklahoma, with some areas forecast to receive 10″+ over the next 16 days.

The southern High Plains’ extremely severe drought would not be affected. Elsewhere, it would certainly improve the situation along, south and southeast of I-44 with some lesser easing over the rest of Oklahoma (except the Panhandle) and the southeast third of Kansas.

This would be a tremendous boost for the winter wheat and for pastures throughout the region.

Dagger in the Drought?

Update: 11:32pm Sunday. Just got a new look at the U.S. model through the end of the Thanksgiving weekend and the weather pattern looks very active Thanksgiving week. So, as to the possibility of major drought relief by Thanksgiving in the areas indicated below looks (keeping in mind this is 11 days out) good.

Suggestion: If you are going to be traveling in the central or western U.S. from the weekend before Thanksgiving through the weekend after, keep up on the weather for your route and destination.

Original Posting: The European Model’s 10-day Rainfall Forecast via AccuWeather.Com’s Professional Site.

The large area of forecast 5″+ rainfall from south central Texas to the southern Ozarks, if it occurs as forecast, will not end the drought. However, these heavy forecast rains — combined with recent rainfalls — will have significantly eased the drought by Thanksgiving in areas to the southeast of I-44. Here is the actual rainfall for the past 60 days:

click to enlarge, from NWS

Southern Plains Drought Eases

Here is the 24-hour rainfall ending at 7am for the southern Plains:

And, rain is still falling in many area as shown in AccuWeather Regional Radar at 9:48am CST:

The drought is not over, but these recent rains certainly help.

Update on Winter Wheat Belt Rain

Here is what the storm looks like now:

I have marked with red arrows the leading edge of the storm. The yellow “L” is the low pressure center still well off the coast.

The National Weather Service’s meteorologist-created (as opposed to pure computer model) forecast of rainfall amounts has now increased and they have scooted the axis of heaviest rainfall farther east.

Click to enlarge

The one point of disagreement I have with this forecast is that I believe it is under-forecasting the amount of rain near the Kansas-Oklahoma border. The models have been quite consistent forecasting amounts near 5″ in an area bordered by Dodge City – Pratt – Woodward. 

Has the forecast of rain been moving the wheat market? Yes. From Dow Jones, here are wheat prices from the last few days. I have put an arrow when we first started forecasting this rainstorm. Note: This is not a blog about commodities. I have only covered this because of the potential wider importance of this event given the extreme drought.
Wheat has dropped 45ยข/bushel since the forecast of rain was posted.
I received a question as to the possibility of tornadoes with this weather system. They are possible, but it is not an ideal situation. The NWS Prediction Center has forecast a slight risk of tornadoes or severe thunderstorms (large hail or damaging straight-line winds) two days:


An active weather pattern to say the least.  

A Weather Situation That Will Move Markets

I do not do commodities nor do I focus on those markets. However, the impending major rain event over the winter wheat belt will almost certainly move markets this week.


Unlike most crops, winter wheat is planted in the autumn. In fact, wheat planting should have been in full force by now but it has been delayed by the extreme drought. Wheat “emergence” (i.e., when the seed sprouts and a shoot can been seen above the ground) is well behind. For example, in Oklahoma 8% of the wheat has usually emerged by this point. Unfortunately, none has so far.

So, the forecast rain will be welcome and preliminary indications are that it will be substantial.

Last night’s run of the European forecast model (today’s precipitation output is not available) showed widespread 4 to 5.5″ rainfall from the Texas Big Bend to Great Bend, Kansas.

From AccuWeather’s Professional web site. Click to enlarge. Scale below. 

This morning’s Japanese model run also shows substantial rains over the next nine days:

The U.S. medium-range model shows lesser amounts of rainfall during the same period, but it is still substantial:

So, if these forecasts are anywhere near correct, this will be enough rain to get the crop into the ground and have it emerge. There are indications that there will be additional rain over the area between the 10th and 17th. Let’s hope so.

ADDITION:  The forecasts have been remarkably consistent. Compare the forecasts above to the one I posted Friday afternoon.

Here is a satellite image at 4pm CDT of the storm as it approaches the Northwest. It will take a turn to the southeast after it moves across the coast.

A Little Drought Relief

Some light to occasionally moderate rain has fallen over the area of extreme drought in the south central United States the last two days.

click to enlarge

Colder than normal temperatures are expected over the drought area the next few days along with additional and much-needed rains.

Rainfall amount forecast for the next five days.
Snow expected in the higher elevations in Colorado and Wyoming!

Some of the computer models are showing as much as four inches of rain over parts of Kansas and Oklahoma over the next ten days. While far more rain is needed, at least there is going to be some short-term relief.