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Meteorologist Jaclyn Whittal walks us through a look at the week ahead.

Drought monitor shows dramatic changes to national map

Monday, March 6, 2017, 11:30 - The latest Drought Monitor map was made public to begin March and shows a significant improvement in the very dry conditions experienced for months in the west, but a very different story for portions of the southern plains, the southeast and the northeast US.

The drought situation in the west has been improving in 2017 and the intense red colors on the map have been slowly shrinking since the later part of 2016. The continuous train of Pacific storms sliding into the west coast, is responsible for spreading record breaking amounts of rain and snow from California, Oregon and Washington, into the Inner Mountain West states, the Rockies and other areas of the southwest, thus taking a huge bite at the drought situation.

Back in the Fall of 2016, many of these areas besides California, where immerse in an extreme drought situation. The past 10 weeks however, have been incredibly weather active, even more than desired, and despite the much needed drought relief in this sector of the country, California will have to spend close to 1 billion dollars to get things back to normal.

No more extreme or exceptional drought in California

The critical drought situation in California is practically gone if we consider above surface water conditions. Groundwater is a different story, and it will take more winters like this one to see the current situation improve. Despite the frantic river of moisture shooting into much of the state, three southern counties, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Imperial, continue to experience a severe drought situation.

Moderate drought is also an issue across some areas of southern California, southwest Arizona, eastern Colorado and northeast Wyoming, but values have improved considerably this past February and the exceptional snowpack in the Rockies and Sierra Nevada´s will add some more water to river, lakes and reservoirs.

Rollercoaster ride for drought in the South

Three months ago, drought in some areas of the south was more critical than today, but despite some relief, the situation has again worsened during the past few weeks.

Much of the state of Oklahoma is experiencing a moderate to severe drought situation. The same holds for portions of northern Arkansas, northeast Mississippi and eastern Tennessee where rain has been limited during the second half of February.

Perhaps the most devastating drought scenarios found in the south now extend across large sectors of northern Alabama and Georgia and extreme eastern counties of South and North Carolina. Here, the increase has been significant since last week.

Now that drought has been erased from much of California, the southeast sector is the one experiencing the most extensive extreme drought conditions around the country. Close to 20 million people live in drought affected areas of this part of the US.

The Northeast now the most populated drought area

Drought conditions in the northeast are not as intense as in the southeast. Moderate levels dominate in many areas, however this is the region of the country where more people are affected by drought of one of sort or another, over 33 million. Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire are experiencing severe to extreme drought conditions as March begins.

In general terms, the drought mainly affects the eastern third of the corridor extending from Maryland all the way north to Maine, with a considerable increase in all categories of drought over the past week.

First half of March could bring some relief to the Southeast

Climate Outlooks for the first half of March show some relief in sight for portions of the southeast. Above normal precipitation is expected later next week anywhere from Texas into the Tennessee River Valley, and that anticipated wet pattern would mean a lot to local farmers as long as severe weather is not an issue at the same time.

No significant dry or wet pattern is expected for drought stricken areas of the northeast, where precipitation is expected to be average. California and other areas of west will stay on the dry side for a change, as the jet stream shifts to the north over the Pacific Northwest gearing storms into the Washington and Oregon area where above normal precipitation is expected.

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