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Date: 1/20/2014

Title: Western Drought

We have been talking a lot about the cold and snow in the nation’s midsection this winter and for good reason. There is more cold weather and snow and more hardship for beef producers in many areas of the central and east for the rest of the month and into early February.

However, only recently has the media paid attention to many areas of the far west and western plains that have been very dry.

First of all, we should expect warm and dry conditions in the far west when it is cold and snowy in the Midwest and East. One thing to remember about how weather patterns work is that when there is one extreme (very cold with snow) there will be the opposite extreme (warm and dry) upstream. So, when it is cold and wet in the east, it will be warmer and drier in the west and vice versa.

While drought conditions this past spring and summer vastly improved in the central and west central areas of the United States we have seen the development of dry conditions in California, the Pacific Northwest and some areas of the southern and central High Plains as you can see in the graphic below.


The big question for the rest of the winter season is whether or not the far west will see relief from the very dry conditions. Will the second half of the winter remain warm and dry for the far west?

In our opinion, the answer is no. There are indications that the second half of the winter for the far west, Pacific Northwest, California and the Desert Southwest will bring better opportunities for rain and snow.

Long range trends are hinting that the far west will have more opportunity for coastal rains and mountain snows in February, March and April as subtle changes in the Pacific may bring better chances for storms to be more directed in the western states.

Whether or not the increased precipitation will bring significant drought relief to the far west is something we will monitor in the coming weeks and months.