An update on recent rainfall and ongoing drought conditions across the TN Valley

After the recent rainfall events across the area, we wanted to provide an update on where we stand in terms of the rainfall deficit/surplus across the Tennessee Valley and how that factors into the ongoing drought across the area. We had some weekend showers move through the region, but the heaviest rain stayed well off to the south and east, with our area generally getting near or less than a quarter inch of rain in most areas. The Northwest Alabama Regional Airport in Muscle Shoals is our area’s closest official climate reporting station, along with Pryor Field just north of Decatur, and the Muscle Shoals Airport has seen just shy of an inch of rain so far this month, putting it 2.26 inches behind normal for December. For the year so far, the airport in Muscle Shoals has gotten just shy of 39 inches of rain, putting it a touch over 13 inches below the normal 51.98″ that we usually see on average for a year. Over the past 30 days, everyone has gotten at least 2-3 inches of rain, but some locations in north Alabama have actually gotten some 4 to 6″ totals since mid November, and a few locations near Decatur to Huntsville have even been near or even slightly above their normal rainfall amounts for the past 30 days. However, while north Alabama has seen some good improvement, may areas of southern Tennessee have seen only roughly half or slightly less of the normal rainfall they would see over the past 30 days.

Looking at the longer term rainfall deficit across our area though, pretty much everyone in our immediate viewing area is running a double digit rainfall deficit for the last year. Many areas are running 10 to 20 inches behind on rainfall for the year, and several locations are running more than that. The 24.09″ seen in some locations is actually the max value the color palette will show on the map. Some of those areas may actually have a greater rainfall deficit than what is being shown.

The recent heavy rainfall events over the area since early November have helped improve the drought conditions a little. As of the latest update issued last Thursday, Exceptional drought conditions have been pulled back out of our viewing area, and the Extreme drought conditions area has shrunken a little further. Most of our southern middle Tennessee viewing area counties are still in that Extreme drought area, and the same is said for the core of our northwestern Alabama areas back into northeast Mississippi. Places like Athens, Russellville, Moulton, Decatur, Hartselle, etc., that saw a bit of training of heavy rain during that severe weather event Saturday before last have been able to step down a category to only “Severe” drought. That is midway up the drought intensity scale. The seasonal drought outlook from the National Weather Service shows that all of our viewing area is expected to see improving drought conditions through the end of February, but the drought will likely remain… at least to some extent. If we see a continued active storm track into spring, that may help further improve or even remove the drought as we head deeper into 2024. Time will tell!

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