Virginia Water Status Report as of the End of June 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 June 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 June 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 June 2015



Normal for Month July 2014-June 2015 Precipitation


Normal Annual Precipitation
Blacksburg 3.48 4.00 40.41 40.89
Bluefield (Merc. Co. airport, near Va.-W.Va. state line) 3.23 4.14 41.01 39.63
Bristol (Tri-Cities Airport in Tenn., about 20 miles from Bristol, Va.-Tenn.) 2.45 3.90 39.91 41.01
Charlottesville (Char.-Albemarle Airport) 8.23 3.73 38.44 42.71
Danville 8.12 3.85 41.36 44.41
Lynchburg 5.59 3.63 40.25 41.57
Norfolk 8.34 4.26 52.10 46.53
Richmond 6.05 3.93 40.34 43.60
Roanoke 9.07 3.83 44.83 41.25
Wallops Island (Accomack County) 4.31 3.29 42.27 40.84
Washington-Dulles Airport (Loudoun County) 7.44 3.98 38.40 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 June 30, 2015.

Precip perc 30 dayPrecip perc 60 dayPrecip perc 90 day 

Stream flow icon by George Wills

According to the U.S. Geological Survey WaterWatch for Virginia (online at, monthly average stream flow values for June 2015 at 152 stream gages in Virginia and just beyond the state border were in the normal range at about 71 percent of gages, below normal at about 11 percent, and above normal at about 18 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.

StreamsKEEP on deskto - Stream flow code graph 

 Drought Watch icon by George Wills


The weekly National Drought Monitor map from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln ( for June 30, 2015, showed about 13 percent of Virginia as abnormally dry, covering parts of far southwestern Virginia and some areas of the New River and Roanoke River basins between Montgomery County and Danville.  The Drought Monitors for June 16 and June 30 had categorized about 4 percent of Virginia in moderate drought (covering parts of several counties in far southwestern Virginia).

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:
5/26/15 – 32 percent abnormally dry;
4/28/15 – drought-free;
3/31/15 – 14 percent abnormally dry;
7/1/14 – 10 percent abnormally dry or worse; and 2 percent in moderate drought.

The Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force, a collaboration of state and federal agencies, issued its most recent Drought Status Report on June 17, 2015.   A link to the report, along with other current drought-status information, is available online at   The next report is scheduled for July 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.

Following is an excerpt from the beginning of the June 17, 2015, report, summarizing statewide conditions at that time: “…While precipitation has continued the typical uneven summer pattern due to scattered thunderstorms, some areas, mainly within south-central and southwestern Virginia, are continuing to experience less than normal rainfall.  Stream discharge rates in these areas have been fluctuating between above and slightly below normal ranges, depending upon local rainfall amounts.  Groundwater levels have continued the normal summer decline in nearly all of the observation wells in the Virginia Climate Response Network.

The Drought Monitoring Task Force also produces a daily map rating drought-status indicators.  Shown below is the July 1, 2015.  The status-indicator abbreviations on that map are as follows: GW = groundwater levels, Prcp = precipitation deficits, Res – reservoir storage, and Flow = stream flow conditions. F or 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.

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 June 30, 2015, U.S. Drought Monitor rated 41.7 percent of the United States (including all or parts of 42 states) as being abnormally dry or worse, and it rated about 13 percent of the country (including all or parts of 12 states), as being in severe drought or worse (categories D2, D3, and D4).

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:
5/26/15 – 46.4 percent abnormally dry or worse; 11.9 percent severe drought or worse;
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;
7/1/14 – 37.3 percent abnormally dry or worse; 20.9 percent severe drought or worse.

In the following states, over 50 percent of the state was categorized by the June 30 report as being in severe-or-worse drought.

California – 95% (with 71% in extreme or exceptional drought).  California has had over 80 percent of its area categorized in severe-or-worse drought every week since June 25, 2013, and the Golden State had 100 percent in those categories from May 13—July 29, 2014. C alifornia’s current drought began in late 2011 and early 2012.

Nevada – 87% (with 48% in extreme or exceptional drought).

Oregon – 84% (with 34% in extreme drought).

7/14/15 addition: On the other hand, here are some comments from the July 14, 2015 Drought Monitor on near-record wet conditions in June 2015 in several parts of the United States, including areas of  Virginia:

“According to the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) statewide precipitation rankings, both Virginia and West Virginia experienced near-record precipitation totals for the month of June as well as near-record heat across most of the region.

“According to the NOAA NCEI statewide precipitation rankings (based on the last 121 years) for the period of April through June, portions of the Midwest experienced near record wettest with the following rankings: Illinois (118/121), Indiana (117/121), and Ohio (116/121).

“According to the …NCEI, the Northeast region experienced one of its wettest Junes for the period of record from 1895 to 2015.

“According to the [National Weather Service] in San Angelo (TX), …Texas experienced the wettest January through June period on record (1895–2015), according to NOAA NCEI.”

7/27/15 addition: As for temperatures in June 2015, here’s a comment from the July 21, 2105, Drought Monitor on near-record average temperature nationwide, and record high average temperature in several states, for June 2015:
“According to the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) climatological rankings, the contiguous U.S. average temperature for June was the second hottest in the observational record (1895–2015). On a state level, California, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, and Washington all experienced their hottest average-temperature Junes on record since 1895.”

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 July 1, 2015.

Drought Outlook US


For previous Water Central News Grouper monthly posts on water status in Virginia, Please see this link:

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