Monday, March 4, 2013

Southeast Drought Improves

What a difference a month can make.  The drought situation was becoming serious at the end of January as I wrote here.  Yet, February saw an abundance of rainfall creating a substantial surplus for the month.

Monthly rainfall for February in Columbia, SC.  Image Credit: WLTX-TV.

Monthly observed rainfall for February, 2013, covering South Carolina as well as parts of Georgia and North Carolina.  Click on the image for a larger view.  Image Credit: NOAA/AHPS.

In South Carolina the heaviest rainfall occurred over the southern half of the state.  Some parts of the low country saw over ten inches of rain for the month.  The least rainfall occurred over the north central section where rainfall was in the three to four inch range.  However, this area saw more rain in January so that the two-month total is substantial.

A series of storm systems moved through the Southeast pumping moisture from the Gulf of Mexico northward.  The heaviest rainfall occurred across southern Alabama, southern Georgia, and parts of northern Florida.  The drought was center in central Georgia which had experienced extreme to exceptional drought conditions for over a year and a half.

The rainfall greatly weakened the drought during February.  Central Georgia is out of the worst two stages of drought since the end of May, 2011.  All areas of the Southeast saw improvement in drought conditions during the month.

Latest drought information for the Southeast as of February 28, 2013.  Click on the image for a larger view.  Image Credit: USDA.

A comparison of the drought as of January 29 and February 28, 2013 in South Carolina.  Click on the image for a larger view.  Image Credit: USDA.

This comes at the best time for agriculture.  Soil moisture has improved significantly ahead of the planting season.  In addition, it appears that additional rains over the next few weeks will keep soil moisture adequate.  Temperatures will remain below normal through mid-March which will help prevent soils from drying out.

Now is a great time to work in the garden as planting season will be here in the next three to four weeks.  Take advantage of the cooler weather to do any landscaping or soil preparation before the warmer weather and pollen arrives in full force.  The revised rainfall outlook for spring is for a slightly higher chance for below normal, but this is an improvement over previous forecasts by the Climate Prediction Center (CPC).