National Current Conditions: February 21, 2024 - February 27, 2024

Record February heat in the Great Plains and Midwest contributed to drought and dryness expanding in these regions. Parts of the Northwest, Gulf Coast, and Carolinas saw conditions worsen too.

As of February 27, 2024, 18.09% of the U.S. and Puerto Rico and 21.59% of the lower 48 states are in drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.


This Week's Drought Summary…

Several weather systems moved across the contiguous U.S. (CONUS) during this U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) week (February 21-27). Their fronts and surface lows spread rain and snow across parts of the West at the beginning and end of the week, and over the Tennessee to Ohio Valleys and Appalachians at mid-week. These systems were associated with an upper-level circulation pattern that consisted of low-pressure troughs just off the west coast and east coast, with a high-pressure ridge over the central part of the country.

The ridge brought above-normal temperatures to much of the CONUS, from the Rocky Mountains to Appalachian Mountains, with weekly temperatures averaging 15-20 degrees F above normal from Texas to the northern Plains and Upper Mississippi Valley. Temperatures averaged near to cooler than normal in parts of the interior West to Pacific Coast and along the Eastern Seaboard. The ridge also inhibited precipitation from the Rockies to Mississippi Valley.

The precipitation in the West was mainly over mountain ranges but was not enough to improve drought conditions. The precipitation in the Midwest was enough to prevent further drought expansion or intensification where it was wetter than normal for the week. In other areas, drought or abnormal dryness expanded or intensified in parts of the Plains and Midwest, and a few parts of the Pacific Northwest, Gulf of Mexico coast, and Mid-Atlantic coast.


Looking Ahead...

In the two days since the Tuesday valid time of this USDM, Pacific moisture continued to move across the Coastal and Cascade ranges in the Pacific Northwest, with precipitation falling in areas east of the Mississippi River and in parts of the southern Plains. For February 29-March 5, a ridge over the eastern CONUS will bring warmer-than-normal temperatures to much of the country east of the Rockies while a trough contributes to cooler-than-normal temperatures in the West. Forecast models predict a wet period for much of the West, in the Upper Rio Grande Valley, and from the Lower Mississippi Valley to the East Coast, as low-pressure systems and fronts bring locally heavy precipitation.

The Coastal, Cascade, and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges could see 5 to 10 inches of precipitation, or locally more, while the central to northern Rockies could receive 2 to 4 inches of precipitation. Parts of southern New Mexico and western Texas could receive up to an inch of rain. An inch or more of precipitation is predicted from southern Louisiana to southern New England. Outside of these wet areas, up to half an inch of moisture could fall in the lower elevations of the West, across the northern and southern Plains, and Midwest to Northeast. Areas that could miss out on the precipitation stretch from southern California to the central Plains, where little to no precipitation is expected, and the southern Plains and Mid-Mississippi Valley to eastern Great Lakes, where less than a fourth of an inch may fall.

For much of the next 2 weeks, the atmospheric circulation is expected to continue an upper-level trough over the western CONUS and a ridge over the eastern two-thirds of the country, with Pacific weather systems migrating through the trough/ridge pattern. The Climate Prediction Center’s (CPC) 6-10 Day Outlook (valid March 4-8) and 8-14 Day Outlook (valid March 6-12) favor a fairly stable pattern of warmer-than-normal temperatures from the Plains to East Coast and cooler-than-normal temperatures over the West and Alaska. The outlook is for above-normal precipitation over eastern and southern Alaska and much of the CONUS, especially east of the Mississippi River, with odds favoring near to below-normal precipitation over the northern Rockies to northern Plains and over the west coast of Alaska.