Virginia Water Status Report as of the End of January 2015, Plus a Look at Drought Nationally

Here is the Virginia Water Central News Grouper’s monthly water-status report, as of the end of January 2015.  The Virginia Water Resources Research Center thanks the agencies mentioned below for providing the data and maps used in this post.


Here are National Weather Service (NWS) preliminary precipitation totals for January 2015 at 11 Virginia or near-Virginia locations, with the amount above (+) or below (-) normal for this month of the year historically.  All values are in inches, rounded to the nearest 0.1 inch from NWS values.

Location Observed Precipitation(inches) Above (+) or Below (-) Normal (inches)
Blacksburg 1.3 -1.8
Bluefield (Va.-W.Va. state line) 1.5 -1.4
Bristol (Tri-Cities Airport in Tenn., about 20 miles from Bristol, Va.-Tenn.) 2.3 -1.1
Charlottesville 1.7 -1.1
Danville 1.5 -1.9
Dulles Airport (Loudoun County) 3.3 +0.6
Lynchburg 1.9 -1.3
Norfolk 3.6 +0.2
Richmond 3.5 +0.5
Roanoke 1.3 -1.6
Wallops Island (Accomack County) 4.7 +1.7

Precipitation sources: Climate pages of the following National Weather Service Forecast Offices:
Blacksburg, Va. (
Morristown, Tenn. (
Baltimore-Washington (; and
Wakefield, Va. (

The normal values used by the National Weather Service (NWS) in these provisional reports are based on the period from 1981 to 2010.  The National Climatic Data Center released these normal values in July 2011.  For information on the normal values, see the National Climatic Data Center Web page at

For graphs of precipitation, visit the Southeast Regional Climate Center (Chapel Hill, N.C) at, where you can find maps of total precipitation and percent of normal precipitation for the past 7, 30, 60, or 90 days; or the NWS’ Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service at for a map of precipitation nationwide or by state, with capability to show county boundaries, and archives available for specific days, months, or years.  Shown below are the Southeast Regional Climate Center’s provisional (still needing verification) maps of the percent-of-normal precipitation for the previous 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days, through January 31, 2015.  Please note that the scale is different for the 30-day map.
precip perc 30 day Jan31precip perc 60 day Jan31precip perc 90 day Jan31


According to the U.S. Geological Survey WaterWa tch for Virginia, average stream flow values for January 2015 at about 150 stream gages in Virginia and just beyond the state border were in the normal range at about 69 percent of gages; below normal at about 29 percent; and above normal at about 3 percent. The color-coded, flow-percentile map for this period is shown below.  The color codes/percentile classes used by USGS to compared flows to historical records for the month are as follows:
KEEP ON DESK _ Stream Flow ChartStreams Jan 2015






The weekly National Drought Monitor map from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln ( for January 27, categorized about 10 percent of Virginia as being abnormally dry.  That area included all or parts of several counties around or near Danville, Lynchburg, Martinsville, and Roanoke.

The Drought Monitor notes that it “focuses on broad-scale conditions [and] local conditions may vary.”  The Drought Monitor categories are as follows:
D0 = abnormally dry;
D1 = moderate drought;
D2 = severe drought;
D3 = extreme drought;
D4 = exceptional drought.

For comparison, here are Virginia ratings from previous Drought Monitors from about one month, two months, three months, and one year ago:
12/30/14 – 16 percent abnormally dry;
11/25/14 – 38 percent abnormally dry;
10/28/14 – 23 percent abnormally dry;
1/28/14 – drought free.

The Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force, a collaboration of state and federal agencies, issued its most recent Drought Status Report on January 9, 2015. A link to the report, along with other current drought-status information, is available online at  The Task Force’s reports typically include information from some or all of the following agencies: University of Virginia Climatology Office, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the Virginia departments of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Health, and Environmental Quality.  The Drought Monitoring Task Force also produces a daily map rating groundwater levels (GW), precipitation deficits (Prcp), reservoir storage (Res), and stream flow (Flow) conditions across the Commonwealth.  In each area, a color code indicates “normal,” “watch,” “warning,” or “emergency conditions.”  The February 1, 2015, map is shown below.  The current map and more information on the ratings are available the Task Force Web site listed above.

Va drought map

Looking at drought conditions beyond Virginia: The January 27, 2015, U.S. Drought Monitor rated 43.4 percent of the United States (including all or parts of 42 states) as being abnormally dry or worse, and it rated 14.1 percent of the country (including all or parts of 13 states), as being in severe drought or worse (categories D2, D3, and D4).  (On August 7, 2012, 38.5 percent of the country was in the three worst categories; that was the highest percentage in these categories reported by the Drought Monitor since it began in 2000.)

The nationwide percentages for abnormally dry or worse (D0-D4) and severe or worse (D2-D4) in the previous three months and one year ago were as follows:
12/30/14 – 39.2 percent abnormally dry or worse; 14.1 percent severe drought or worse;
11/25/14 – 39.5 percent abnormally dry or worse; 14.0 percent severe drought or worse;
10/28/14 – 36.4 percent abnormally dry or worse; 15.1 percent severe drought or worse;
1/28/14 – 49.1 percent abnormally dry or worse; 17.4 percent severe drought or worse;

In the following states, over 50 percent of the state was categorized by the January 27 report as being in severe-or-worse drought:
California – 94% (with 78% in extreme or exceptional drought; California has had over 90 percent of its area categorized in severe-or-worse drought every week since February 11, 2014, and the Golden State had 100 percent in those categories from May 13—July 29, 2014);
Nevada – 68% (with 50% in extreme or exceptional drought).

For a look ahead, the National Weather Service/Climate Prediction Center’s “U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook” for the next 90 days is available at  Shown below is the outlook map available on February 5, 2015.
Drought outlook Jan15



Please see this link:

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