The severe drought that plagued much of the western half of the United States in the spring and summer is likely to continue into late fall, government forecasters said Thursday.
The September to November outlook, prepared by meteorologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, suggests above-average temperatures are likely to be found in nearly all of the West, except Washington and parts of Idaho, Montana and North Dakota.
Precipitation is expected to be lower than normal from the southwest into the Rockies and Northern Plains.
All in all, that means bad news for a part of the country already experiencing major drought effects, including dwindling water supplies, crop failure, barren pastureland and exploding wildfires.
“For much of the western US, we expect the drought to continue,” Matthew Rosencrans, a NOAA meteorologist, said during a teleconference with reporters.
According to the United States Drought Monitor, 47 percent of the land area of the contiguous 48 states currently experiences varying degrees of drought, almost all in the High Plains or from the Rocky Mountains westward. Drought affects nine states, including California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Oregon and North and South Dakota.
Over the past month, the drought has eased in Arizona and New Mexico. The so-called monsoon rains have helped, Mr Rosencrans said. These occur in the summer when atmospheric conditions draw Pacific moisture into the region.
But elsewhere in the West, dry and hot conditions will continue through July, NOAA announced. California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington experienced their warmest July in 127 years on record, while five other states, including Utah and Colorado, came close to setting records.
The drought situation is particularly dire in California, where 49 percent of the state falls into the category of the most severe drought. Farmers in the state’s Central Valley have faced sharp cuts to their water supplies, wells are running dry in some cities, and several major wildfires are currently raging, including the Dixie Fire, now the largest single fire in California history. .
About half of Utah, a third of Nevada and a quarter of Oregon also fall into the toughest category.
Over the next three months, the drought could develop in northeastern Colorado and western Nebraska, Mr. Rosencrans said. The only improvement is possible in the western parts of Oregon and Washington.
As for the outlook beyond November, Mr. Rosencrans said there is a greater than 50 percent chance of La Niña developing in the fall and continuing through the winter.
In La Niña, the sea surface temperature in the equatorial Pacific drops below normal, leading to changes in atmospheric circulation that can affect weather around the world. In the United States, that often, but not always, means warmer and drier conditions in Southern California, the Southwest and Southeast, and colder and wetter conditions in much of the northern part of the country.
Overall, NOAA said, the 48 contiguous states experienced the 13th warmest July on record. To compensate for the western heat, below-average temperatures were recorded in the central plains, parts of the Midwest and Southeast, and northern New England.