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Southwest Drought Briefing: April 16, 2021

Event Date
April 16, 2021
Event Time
11:00 am - 11:30 am

The most recent U.S. Drought Monitor indicates that all of the Southwest is experiencing some level of drought, and forecasts indicate these conditions are expected to continue through spring. In this short drought briefing, Arizona State Climatologist, Nancy Selover, provided an update of current drought conditions and forecasts for Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada. Dannele Peck, from the Northern Plains Climate Hub, then presented the latest grassland productivity forecast for the Southwest using the Grass-Cast tool.


Introduction and Welcome

Speaker: Emile Elias, USDA Southwest Climate Hub

  • Acknowledgement of partners in producing this webinar, Joel Lisonbee from the National Drought Information System (NIDIS), Nancy Selover from the Arizona State Climate Office, and Dannele Peck from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Northern Plains Climate Hub.
  • The Southwest Drought Briefing gives an update on conditions and resources for the Southwest. These half-hour webinars will be held monthly for as long as this region is experiencing extreme drought conditions.
  • The next webinar will be on Monday, May 24 at 11 a.m. MDT and will focus on wildfire risk.



Current Drought Conditions in the Western U.S.

Speaker: Nancy Selover, Arizona State Climate Office

  • The Colorado River Basin has seen below-average precipitation so far for Water Year 2021.
  • The region has seen exceptional drought conditions expand over the last 6 months.
  • Some impacts:
    • Low soil moisture prior to snow accumulation is reducing spring run-off.
    • Early snowmelt has reduced stream flows  .
    • Culling cattle herds due to lack of rangeland forage and dry stock ponds and catchments.
    • Wildfire danger was reduced over the winter, but not eliminated.  The windy spring season is further drying vegetation and increasing the wildfire danger.



GrassCast, Grassland Productivity Forecast

Speaker: Dannele Peck, USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub

  • Access the Grassland Productivity Forecast (Grass-Cast).
  • Grass-Cast is an experimental model that generates map-based forecasts of grassland productivity.
  • The tool shows expected pounds per acre for three scenarios: above-average rainfall, near-average rainfall, and below-average rainfall.