High Plains

After recent improvements to the region’s lingering drought areas, conditions were unchanged during the past week. Mostly dry weather prevailed, with temperatures averaging up to 5°F above normal on the northern Plains. Across the region, recent rain and snow have helped to recharge water reserves and soil moisture while aiding pasture recovery and improving prospects for winter wheat establishment. However, significant longer-term moisture shortages linger in the Moderate to Extreme Drought areas (D1-D3), with precipitation over the past 365 days totaling locally less than 60 percent of normal.


A respite between storms afforded local experts an opportunity for further assessment of the current drought situation, with locally heavy precipitation arriving in southern portions of the region after the drought monitoring period. Precipitation up to the data cutoff generally totaled less than an inch (liquid equivalent), though amounts were locally higher in the Four Corners Region and immediate environs. Modest reductions were made in eastern New Mexico to Abnormal Dryness (D0), Moderate Drought (D1), and Severe Drought (D2), where this week’s rain pushed 6-month precipitation totals to near- to above-normal levels. Farther west in southern California and western Arizona, discussion with local experts as well as a detailed analysis of longer-term precipitation deficits and satellite-derived vegetation health data supported trimming the coverage of D2 and D3 (Severe to Extreme Drought); in particular, 24-month precipitation has climbed to near-normal levels along the California-Arizona border. In contrast, dry weather persisted in Northwestern drought areas, where 180-day precipitation has tallied a meager 20 to 50 percent of normal. Rain and snow will be needed soon to prevent an expansion and intensification of drought across the Northwest. Conversely, another moisture-laden storm was bringing moderate to heavy rain and mountain snow to the lower Four Corners after the end of the monitoring period.

Looking Ahead

The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for October 30 – November 3 calls for near- to above-normal precipitation over much of the nation, with drier-than-normal weather limited to the West Coast and lower Southeast. Cooler-than-normal weather is expected across the eastern third of the nation and from the central Plains to the Great Basin, while above-normal temperatures linger across the western Gulf Coast and in the Pacific Coast States.