Drought Conditions have Returned to Parts of the Area

Below normal precipitation has occurred across much of the area over the last 6 months.  March was particularly dry with some areas seeing their driest March on record.  As a result of these dry conditions, drought conditions have returned to parts of the area for the first time since early March of 2011, about 14 months ago.

            The main cause for the return of these drought conditions has been an unusually warm and dry winter and spring across much of the region brought about at least in part by a combination of a weakening La Nina and another event known as a positive Arctic Oscillation.  These two factors combined to significantly restrict cold air intrusions into the region and reduce the frequency and strength of storm systems that did affect the area. 

            The following table summarizes total precipitation for select locations across the area from November 2011 through April 2012 and the departure from normal:


November through  April total precipitation

Departure from normal

(% of normal)


2.73 inches

-1.98 (58%) 


2.29 inches

-0.83 (73%) 


3.23 inches

-0.26 (93%) 


3.23 inches

-2.09 (61%) 


2.55 inches

-2.46 (51%) 


2.95 inches

-1.83 (62%) 

As can be seen from the table, much of the area east of the mountains received slightly more than half the normal precipitation over the last 6 months.  The latest National Drought Monitor depicts the return of abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions to much of the area, as can be seen here:


     La Nina has now dissipated but some effects still remain in the atmosphere.  The latest precipitation outlook for the period May through July shows equal chances for below, near, or above normal rainfall for the Nebraska Panhandle into extreme eastern Wyoming, with slightly better odds for below normal rainfall across the rest of Wyoming, as seen below:

The latest Drought outlook shows some improvement expected in the drought conditions over the Nebraska panhandle but drought conditions persisting or even intensifying over far southern Wyoming, as can be seen on the following graphic:


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