Virginia Water Status Report as of the End of January 2016, 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 January 2016. 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. (https://www.etsy.com/people/BlacksburgArt). For previous monthly water status reports, please see this link: https://vawatercentralnewsgrouper.wordpress.com/?s=Water+Status.

Precipitation Icon by George Wills

Here are National Weather Service (NWS) preliminary (still needing verification) precipitation totals for January 2016 at 11 Virginia or near-Virginia locations, along with the normal for this month of the year at each location. 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 January 2016

Precipitation

 

Normal for Month Feb. 2015-Jan. 2016 Precipitation

 

Normal Annual Precipitation
Blacksburg 2.44 3.08 50.14 40.89
Bluefield1 1.85 2.90 42.37 39.63
Bristol2 2.92 3.37 45.21 41.01
Charlottesville3 1.86 2.77 46.92 42.71
Danville 2.54 3.42 53.07 44.41
Lynchburg 2.77 3.14 46.21 41.57
Norfolk 4.62 3.40 50.62 46.53
Richmond 3.30 3.04 49.02 43.60
Roanoke 2.99 2.92 56.24 41.25
Wallops Island4 2.62 3.04 43.80 40.84
Washington-Dulles Airport5 4.47 2.68 40.59 41.54

Location notes
1 – The Bluefield location is the Mercer County, W. Va., airport, near the Va.-W.Va. state line.
2- The Bristol location Tri-Cities Airport in Tenn., about 20 miles from Bristol, Va./Tenn.
3 – The Charlottesville location is the (Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport.
4 – Wallops Island is in Accomack County.
5 – Washington-Dulles Airport is in Loudoun County.

Precipitation sources: Climate pages of the following National Weather Service Forecast Offices:
Blacksburg, Va. (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=rnk);
Morristown, Tenn. (http://www.weather.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=mrx;
Baltimore-Washington (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=lwx); and
Wakefield, Va. (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=akq).

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 http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/land-based-station-data/land-based-datasets/climate-normals.

For graphs of precipitation, visit the Southeast Regional Climate Center (Chapel Hill, N.C) at http://www.sercc.com/climateinfo/precip_maps, 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 http://water.weather.gov/precip/ 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 preliminary maps of the percent-of-normal precipitation for the previous 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days, through January 31, 2016. Please note that the scale is different for the 30-day map.

Precipperc30

Precipperc60

Precipperc90

 Stream flow icon by George Wills

According to the U.S. Geological Survey WaterWatch for Virginia (online at http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/index.php?m=mv01d&r=va&w=map), monthly average stream flow values for January 2016 at 154 stream gages in Virginia and just beyond the state border were in the normal range at 81% of gages, below normal at 14%, above normal at 12%, and much above normal at 3%. 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

KEEP on deskto - Stream flow code graph

An overall look at Virginia streamflow conditions is provided in the USGS WaterWatch summary plot of 7-day average streamflow conditions. Below is the summary plot for 87 Virginia sites during the 45-day period ending January 31, 2016, accessed at http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/index.php?id=pa07d&sid=w__plot&r=va on 2/1/16.

Streams graph Jan31
Water status icons groundwater by George Wills

Information on current groundwater levels in Virginia monitoring wells is available from the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water Information System, online at http://waterdata.usgs.gov/va/nwis/current/?type=gw; and from the USGS Climate Response Network, online at http://groundwaterwatch.usgs.gov/net/ogwnetwork.asp?ncd=crn (at that page, you can find a national map showing the status of groundwater monitoring wells compared to historical values).

Drought Watch icon by George Wills
DROUGHT IN VIRGINIA

The weekly National Drought Monitor map from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/) for January 26, 2016, showed Virginia as drought-free. Drought Monitor categories are as follows:
D0 = abnormally dry;
D1 = moderate drought;
D2 = severe drought;
D3 = extreme drought;
D4 = exceptional drought.

The Drought Monitor notes that it “focuses on broad-scale conditions [and] local conditions may vary.”

For comparison, here are Virginia ratings from previous Drought Monitors from about one month, two months, three months, and one year ago:
12/29/15 – 0.01% abnormally dry;
12/1/15 – 0.01% abnormally dry;
10/27/15 – 0.01% abnormally dry;
1/27/15 – 10.4% abnormally dry.

The Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force, a collaboration of state and federal agencies, issued its most recent Drought Status Report on December 14, 2015. A link to the report, along with other current drought-status information, is available online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/WaterSupplyWaterQuantity/Drought.aspx. 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 daily map for February 1, 2016. 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 VA Feb 1

DROUGHT ELSEWHERE

The January 26, 2016, U.S. Drought Monitor rated 25.3% of the United States (including all or parts of 33 states, plus Puerto Rico) as being abnormally dry or worse; this is the lowest nationwide percentage of abnormally dry-or-worse conditions since the week of August 3, 2010. The Drought Monitor rated 7.1% of the country (including all or parts of 6 states, plus Puerto Rico), as being in severe drought or worse (categories D2, D3, and D4); this the lowest nationwide percentage of severe-or-worse drought since the week of January 18, 2011.

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:
12/29/15 – 29.4% abnormally dry or worse; 9.7% severe drought or worse;
12/1/15 – 32.4% abnormally dry or worse; 12.3% severe drought or worse;
10/27/15 – 48.7% abnormally dry or worse; 14.4% severe drought or worse;
1/27/15 – 43.4% abnormally dry or worse; 14.1% severe drought or worse.

In California, over 86% of the state was categorized by the 1/26/16 report as being in severe-or-worse drought, with 64% in extreme or exceptional drought. The Golden State has had over 80% of its area categorized in severe-or-worse drought every week since June 25, 2013; over 90% in those categories from February 2014 to mid-December 2015; and 100% from May 13—July 29, 2014. California’s current drought began in late 2011 to early 2012.  Following are some comments from the 1/26/16 Drought Monitor on modest improvements in California from that state’s severe, multi-year, drought:

“There are finally some signs that some modest dents in the armor of the multi-year drought in California are appearing. …[C]ontinued recovery in soil moisture, long-term average streamflow, well above normal snow water content (150-180% of normal), and a trend up in reservoir levels has led to some slight improvement in the water supply situation and to the long-term drought in northern California….In what must seem like a broken record…we must stress that this doesn’t mean the region is out of drought, as many of the larger reservoirs in northern California and southern Oregon are still below half of capacity. …Relative to last year, though, the trend is going in the right direction for now with a good chunk of the snow season still left to play out over the next two months.”

90-DAY DROUGHT OUTLOOK

For a look ahead, the National Weather Service/Climate Prediction Center’s “U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook” is available at http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/expert_assessment/sdo_summary.php. Shown below is the outlook map available on February 1, 2016.

Drought outlook nationwide

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