Monitoring Global Soil Moisture

On Again/Off Again El Nino
04/08/2019, 1:17 pm EDT
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04/16/2019, 7:49 am EDT
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The Great Flood on 2019 continues to maintain soaking wet fields in the Midwest U.S. while soil moisture across Southern Canada remains limited still awaiting snowmelt in some areas. Parts of the Brazil drought zone have eroded while in Europe dryness is stronger France to Spain. The Australian drought has improved while Southeast Asia to Western Indonesia drought worsens.

The outlook indicates the Central U.S. stays wet, the trend toward drought in Europe/Western Russia is there but confidence below average.

Fig. 1: March 2019 global soil moisture % of normal and 3-month trend.

Observation discussion: In the U.S. the Great Midwest Flood Zone intensified due to snow, heavy rain and melting snow in the region. The Southeast to Mid-Atlantic U.S. region trended drier the past 2-3 months. The Interior West U.S. trended wetter due to above normal precipitation. Western Canada and Eastern Quebec trended drier during early 2019 while Alaska was wetter.

Central Mexico, the Caribbean Islands and northwest South America each trended drier during recent months. Elsewhere across South America the dryness in Brazil eased especially southwest and southeast sections while northeastern Argentina to Uruguay were wetter. A drier pattern emerged in Chile.

In Europe dryness strengthened across France and Spain to Northwest Africa. A wetter regime was observed across Northwest Russia and also across Turkey and eastward. Far Northwest Europe also trended wetter.

South-central Asia is much wetter due to snowmelt. East China also trended wetter while Japan remained very dry. Southeast Asia and the central and western portions of Indonesia are sharply drier during the past 3 months. Eastern Indonesia turned wetter.

The Australian drought eased in Queensland to far northwest New South Wales. However, new dryness developed on the West Coast. The Indian Peninsula remained mostly dry. Central tropical Africa and South/Southwest Africa were much drier during Q1 of 2019.

ENSO/global SSTA discussion: El Nino onset occurred in February. The March El Nino signature was stronger although notice the cool SSTA off the northwest coast of South America. The cool SSTA contributed to drier climate in Central Mexico, northwestern portions of South America and the Caribbean Islands. Overall El Nino is judged as weak especially due to the lack of consistent coupling of the atmosphere reaction to the Pacific warmth.

The Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO) is near neutral; normally PDO is in the warm phase when El Nino is present. The North Atlantic is quite warm in the subtropics but the tropics are near normal and the March Atlantic multi-decadal oscillation (AMO) was marginally warm.

The warm subtropics of the southern hemisphere helped induce wetter tropical character to parts of Australia and northeast Argentina/southwest Brazil. The northern hemisphere subtropics are also notably warmer. Strong anomalous warmth in the subtropics correlates well to a stronger than normal subtropical high pressure which can bring anomalous hot weather.

Fig. 2: The March 2019 global SSTA analysis and annotated commentary.

Forecast discussion: In the U.S. models and analogs are in agreement that wet climate over the next 3 months will focus on Texas and vicinity. The wet weather extends north toward the Midwest U.S. Flood Zone. Dryness is forecast over the Far Northwest and possibly the Carolinas plus South-central Canada. The wet pattern in Texas also extends south into Eastern Mexico although Central America drought will worsen.

In South America models and analogs agree on a wet regime for Brazil. Only East Brazil dry-to-drought conditions will linger. Drought in Chile worsens while dryness across northwestern coastal South America also worsens.

In Europe late spring to early summer is forecast wetter South-central and Southeast Europe including some of the crop areas. The next 3 months are drier for Spain into France and also in the Black Sea region to Southwest Russia. Northwest Russia is forecast wetter. Central and Northeast Russia is projected drier the next 3 months.

Dryness on the Indian Peninsula continues while emerging drought in Southeast Asia plus Indonesia worsens. Australia turns drier in eastern and southwestern sections and widespread drought affecting the continent continues. Southwest and South Africa turn drier as drought in those regions worsens.

Fig. 3: The current global soil moisture percentile rank with annotated 3-month outlook valid through July.

Drought outlook: Dryness is likely to continue across Canada subtracting snow melt risk. In the U.S. no drought is expected except Northwest and West U.S. The trend toward dry to drought conditions is expected in Europe and Western Russia although confidence is below average. Drought avoids China this year but is expected for Southeast Asia and Indonesia and remains in-place for southern India. Australian drought is also likely to continue. In Brazil drought is likely to fade.

CountryAPR 2019JUN 2019AUG 2019OCT 2019
Canada55657070
U.S.10253035
Europe40505565
Ukraine45506065
West Russia35455055
China25354045
India65605550
SE Asia70757570
Indonesia70757575
Australia75757570
South Africa70707070
Brazil55454045
Argentina40454545

 Table 1: The updated global Climate Impact Company drought forecast assessment is indicated.