NOAA: Drought Picture Improving

Drought conditions over the Plains and the Midwest have improved, in part due to landfalling tropical systems, but drought is lingering in the interior Southeast, south-central Texas, and California, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. As of Sept. 16, the contiguous United States has the lowest coverage of all levels of drought (21.9 percent), including severe drought (7.5 percent), since January 2006.

"U.S. drought coverage has decreased from nearly 30 percent between mid-June and early August to about 20 percent now," said Douglas Le Comte, drought specialist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center. "During the past 12 weeks there has been a pronounced reduction in extreme to exceptional drought in many areas of the country."

Heavy rain associated with the Southwest and Florida rainy seasons along with tropical storms have had a significant impact. June through August precipitation across the contiguous United States averaged 9.05 inches, 0.8 inch above the 1901–2000 average, making this the 15th wettest summer since 1895.

Of all the tropical cyclones, Tropical Storm Fay had the greatest impact on U.S. drought. In August, Fay dropped more than five inches of rain on parched sections of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina. While Fay's rains eased drought in the southern Appalachians, more rain is needed to erase drought conditions stemming from rainfall deficits exceeding 20 inches over two years. Hurricane Gustav ended drought in Louisiana, while Tropical Storm Hanna eliminated drought over central North Carolina and south-central Virginia, but its track failed to provide relief for the western Carolinas.

Multiple storms – Hurricane Dolly (July), Hurricane Edouard (August), and Hurricane Ike (September) – greatly minimized much of the drought in coastal Texas. However, the rains from these storms largely missed the drought over south-central Texas.

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