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

Here is the Virginia Water Central News Grouper’s monthly water-status report on precipitation, stream flow, and drought, as of the end of May 2015. The Virginia Water Resources Research Center thanks the agencies mentioned below for providing the data and maps used in this post. Icons for precipitation, stream flow, and drought are by George Wills of Blacksburg, Va. (

Precipitation Icon by George Wills

Here are National Weather Service (NWS) preliminary (still needing verification) precipitation totals for May 2015 at 11 Virginia or near-Virginia locations, along with the normal for this month of the year at each location; note the record monthly lows at Bristol and Danville. Also shown are the precipitation totals at each location for the previous 12 months and the normal annual precipitation for each location. All values are in inches.

Location May 2015



Normal for Month June 2014-May 2015 Precipitation


Normal Annual Precipitation
Blacksburg 2.24 4.33 40.00 40.89
Bluefield (Merc. Co. airport, near Va.-W.Va. state line) 1.82 4.31 41.38 39.63
Bristol (Tri-Cities Airport in Tenn., about 20 miles from Bristol, Va.-Tenn.) 0.70 – record low for May at this location 3.80 41.04 41.01
Charlottesville (Char.-Albemarle Airport) 1.82 3.98 33.06 42.71
Danville 1.12 – record low for May at this location 3.88 34.47 44.41
Lynchburg 1.66 3.73 37.06 41.57
Norfolk 1.51 3.41 45.67 46.53
Richmond 1.61 3.78 37.68 43.60
Roanoke 1.75 4.06 38.81 41.25
Wallops Island (Accomack County) 2.73 2.95 39.54 40.84
Washington-Dulles Airport (Loudoun County) 2.46 4.55 35.58 41.54

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 May 31, 2015.
Precip perc 30 day May 31Precip perc 60 day May 31Precip perc 90 day May 31

 Stream flow icon by George Wills

According to the U.S. Geological Survey WaterWatch for Virginia (online at, average stream flow values for May 2015 at 151 stream gages in Virginia and just beyond the state border were in the normal range at about 63 percent of gages, below normal at about 28 percent, and much below normal at about 9 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 shown in the chart below the map.

Streams May KEEP on deskto - Stream flow code graph

Drought Watch icon by George Wills DROUGHT IN VIRGINIA

The weekly National Drought Monitor map from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln ( for May 26, 2015, showed about 32 percent of Virginia as abnormally dry, covering an area from far southwestern Virginia across the Commonwealth’s southern tier as far east as Sussex County. Before this week, Virginia had been categorized as drought-free since the Drought Monitor report for April 21, 2015. Before that, some area of Virginia had been categorized as at least “abnormally dry” since the Drought Monitor report for April 22, 2014.

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:
4/28/15 – drought-free;
3/31/15 – 14 percent abnormally dry;
3/3/15 – 31 percent abnormally dry;
5/27/14 – 8 percent abnormally dry.

The Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force, a collaboration of state and federal agencies, issued its most recent Drought Status Report on May 19, 2015. A link to the report, along with other current drought-status information, is available online at The next report is scheduled for June 2015. 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 drought-status indicators. Shown below is the May 29, 2015, map. The status-indicator abbreviations on that map are as follows: GW = groundwater levels, Prcp = precipitation deficits, Res – reservoir storage, and Flow = stream flow conditions. For each region of Virginia, the indicators are color coded for “normal,” “watch,” “warning,” or “emergency conditions.” Any given day’s current map and more information on drought status in Virginia are available the Task Force Web site listed above.

Drought Status VA May 29


More information on current groundwater levels in Virginia monitoring wells is available from the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water Information System, online at; and from the USGS Climate Response Network, online at (at that page, you can find a national map showing the status of groundwater monitoring wells compared to historical values).


The May 26, 2015, U.S. Drought Monitor rated 46.4 percent of the United States (including all or parts of 48 states) as being abnormally dry or worse, and it rated 11.9 percent of the country (including all or parts of 9 states), as being in severe drought or worse (categories D2, D3, and D4). (This was the lowest nationwide percentage of severe-or-worse since the March 15, 2011, Drought Monitor, when 10.9% of the country was rated in severe-or-worse drought. 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:
4/28/15 – 48.5 percent abnormally dry or worse; 16.7 percent severe drought or worse;
3/31/15 – 54.0 percent abnormally dry or worse; 15.5 percent severe drought or worse;
3/3/15 – 49.4 percent abnormally dry or worse; 13.1 percent severe drought or worse;
5/27/14 – 40.5 percent abnormally dry or worse; 23.2 percent severe drought or worse.

In the following states, over 50 percent of the state was categorized by the May 26 report as being in severe-or-worse drought.

California – 94% (with 67% 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 – 87% (with 49% in extreme or exceptional drought).

Oregon – 68% (with 34% in extreme 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 June 1, 2015.

Drought outlook US 90 days as of May 21


Please see this link:

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