Even though widespread rain has occurred in the Southeast US in the past few weeks, soil moisture remains low and the Drought continues. The US Drought Monitor updated on January 3rd and released today, January 5th continues to show areas of Moderate to Extreme Drought in parts of the Southeast US.  

Latest Drought Monitor?

As shown below, the Drought Monitor released on January 5th highlights that much of Alabama and Georgia in experiencing Severe to Extreme Drought conditions. For parts of Mississippi, Tennessee and the western parts of the Carolina’s, Moderate to Severe Drought is still present. The good news is the rain did help and we are no longer have Exceptional Drought. 

US Drought Monitor January 5 2017 shows moderate to extreme drought in SE US

Didn’t this area just see heavy rainfall?

While recent storm paths have provided for widespread rain in the past week, we still  have longer term rainfall deficits. Rainfall amounts between  December 28th at 6 am CST through January 4th 6 am CST, showed heavier areas of rain from southern Mississippi into southern Alabama and central Georgia where averages of 4 to 8 inches fell with some areas seeing 10+ inches of rain.  

Dec 28 2016 to Jan 4 2016 Southeast US rainfall totals


However when you look at the 180-day departure from normal, precipitation amounts for many areas from Mississippi into the Carolina’s, show deficits of 4 inches (yellows) to ~ 12 inches (oranges)  with pockets of 16 inch (reds) deficits.

180 day rainfall deficits fall and winter 2016 in SE US

Modeled soil moisture anomalies indicate that many areas across the Deep South as shown in the warmer tones in the graphic are below normal. The deeper reds identify soil moisture deficits in excess of 160 mm. That equates to 6+ inches that is needed in our soils to return to “normal soil moisture conditions.”

Modeled soil moisture on December 31 2016


Unfortunately with every heavy rainfall event, the top layers of the soil tend to saturate quickly. When this happens, water runs off across the top soil layers which dramatically decrease deep soil water recharge. Sadly the deeper soil recharge is what our crops, plants and trees need. So to break this drought, we still need several more good soaking events, which is lighter to moderate rainfall vs. heavy rainfall.  

When is the next chance of rain?

Thankfully the another storm system will move across the Southeast Tomorrow and into Saturday bringing ~ a half to around an inch of liquid. (Some of this precipitation may fall as snow.) In addition, a system is expected to move across the Tennessee Valley mid next week. However, January is generally a wetter time of year across the Southeast where widespread 4 to 6 inches of precipitation on average falls in the month.  

7 day Forecast rainfall amounts for the US Jan 5 through Jan 12 2017

What does this mean to Farmers and Ranchers

While continued rains are beneficial, farmers and ranchers need to continue with their drought response activities. This includes both operational response activities such as conserving water wherever possible, but also fiscal planning. The Alabama Extension office recently provided livestock producers some tax planning tips for 2016, many of them still apply for the 2017 tax year.  Some of the suggestions include, conserving cash for future operations, manage your profits and hence tax burden by purchasing new equipment, stocking up on feed, and make IRA contributions.

So start thinking of what you can do now to decrease the financial impact of this drought in 2017.

Our Promise

The team at WxIntegrations will continue to provide relevant information and resources to help you better understand and prepare by incorporating weather impacts into your planning and response.

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