NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and its partners issue Drought Status Updates as conditions evolve. The December 13 update for the Southeast notes the following key points. You can view the full update here.
- Despite significant rainfall over the summer, precipitation this fall was much below normal for much of the region. This continued lack of precipitation is leading to soil moisture deficits and low streamflows, even as we enter the climatological winter.
- Based on the U.S. Drought Monitor released on December 9th, drought remains and currently covers 26% of the region, with 13% in severe drought (D2). These drought areas are currently in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, with the Carolinas most impacted. Abnormally dry conditions (D0) cover 41% of the region, and are found in the above states as well as Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.
- Current impacts include observed low streamflow and reduced soil moisture. Fortunately, drought impacts are less pronounced this time of year because water demand is lower this time of year for vegetation use, irrigation of agriculture and lawns, and other uses. Also, climatologically, the October/November time period is one of the drier times of the year across most of the region.
- One concern is the potential for moisture deficits across portions of the region heading into the next growing season and the cold season recharge for reservoirs.
- Except for northern portions of Alabama, no appreciable rainfall is expected over the next week. Week 2 will more likely than not see above-average rainfall over most of the region, except for Florida and southeast Georgia, where rainfall should remain sparse.
- The winter outlook (December 2021–February 2022) shows a higher chance for below-normal precipitation and above-normal temperatures across much of the Southeast region, which is typical of the existing La Niña pattern.
- Wildfire threats have increased due to low humidity and dry fuel loads, and have led to a burn ban in North Carolina. There are reports that winter wheat is being irrigated in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina, which is highly unusual. Some water systems are considering or implementing conservation practices. South Carolina has declared ‘incipient’ drought conditions in 34 counties, and North Carolina issued a Drought Advisory.