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 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.
Here are National Weather Service (NWS) preliminary (still needing verification) precipitation totals for May 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.
|Normal for Month||June 2015-May 2016 Precipitation
|Normal Annual Precipitation|
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 May 31, 2016.
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 May 2016 at 151 stream gages in Virginia and just beyond the state border were in the normal range at 24% of gages, below normal at 1%, above normal at 52%, and much above normal at 23%. 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.
An overall look at Virginia streamflow conditions is provided in the USGS WaterWatch summary plot of average streamflow conditions. Below is the summary plot for 88 Virginia sites during the 45-day period ending May 31, 2016, accessed at http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/index.php?id=pa07d&sid=w__plot&r=va on June 1, 2016.
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 IN VIRGINIA
The weekly National Drought Monitor map from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/) for May 31, 2016, showed about 2.5% of Virginia as abnormally dry, along the northwestern edge of the Commonwealth.
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:
4/26/16 – 95% abnormally dry or worse; 4% in moderate drought.
3/29/16 – drought-free;
3/1/16 – drought-free;
6/2/15 – 36% abnormally dry.
The Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force, a collaboration of state and federal agencies, issued its most recent Drought Status Report on May 16, 2016. 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 next report is scheduled for mid-July, 2016.
The Drought Monitoring Task Force also produces a daily map rating drought-status indicators. Shown below is daily map for June 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.
The May 31, 2016, U.S. Drought Monitor rated 29.4% of the United States (including all or parts of 42 states, plus Puerto Rico) as being abnormally dry or worse. The Drought Monitor rated 3.6% of the country (including all or parts of 7 states), as being in severe drought or worse (categories D2, D3, and D4); this is the lowest nationwide percentage of severe-or-worse drought since 2.4% for the week of October 5, 2010. The highest percentage in the severe-or-worse categories reported by the Drought Monitor since it began in 2000 was 38.5% of the country for the week of August 7, 2012.
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:
4/26/16 – 37.0% abnormally dry or worse; 5.0% severe drought or worse;
3/29/16 – 35.3% abnormally dry or worse; 4.9% severe drought or worse;
3/1/16 – 28.6% abnormally dry or worse; 6.5% severe drought or worse;
6/2/15 – 41.8% abnormally dry or worse; 11.9% severe drought or worse.
In California, 59.0% of the state was categorized by the May 31 report as being in severe-or-worse drought. While still high and serious, this severe-or-worse percentage for California was the lowest reported by the Drought Monitor since 53.5% for the week of June 11, 2013. California’s current drought began in late 2011 to early 2012.
Meanwhile, in Oregon, none of that state was rated as in severe-or-worse drought, for the second week in a row. Prior to the May 24, 2016, Drought Monitor report, the Beaver State had some areas in severe drought since the report of February 7, 2012.
Following are some comments from the 5/31/16 Drought Monitor on increasingly dry conditions in spring 2016 in the southeastern United States, including in areas near Atlanta: “Drought is beginning to ramp up rapidly across this region during what should be their wettest time of year. Instead, the D0-D1 areas have expanded across most of eastern Tennessee, northern Georgia, and northern Alabama. A new area of severe drought (D2) has also been introduced in northwest Georgia, northeast Alabama and extreme southeastern Tennessee. The lack of spring moisture has really been putting a strain on agriculture in the region, with summer heat yet to come. This year’s tropical storm season prospects will go a long way in determining how entrenched this drought becomes in the Southeast.”
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 June 1, 2016.