National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
How Dry Is It?
Abnormally Dry Conditions
At times, below normal precipitation will lead to a lack of ground water and worsening drought conditions in Arkansas. Check out the latest conditions below.
 
Monitoring Drought in Arkansas
 
Drought Status
 
There were no drought conditions in Arkansas on 12/03/2019.

While it was abnormally dry in southwest Arkansas (D0) to begin December, 2019, there were no drought conditions. Next Page Update: January 3

 
Drought Conditions (Percent Area)
Category Coverage
None 91.66%
D0-D4 8.34%
D1-D4 0%
D2-D4 0%
D3-D4 0%
D4 0%
In the picture: There were no drought conditions in Arkansas on 12/03/2019.
 
As of December 6th, there was a low wildfire danger and no burn bans were posted.
 
 
Drought conditions as of 12/03/2019.
In the picture: Drought conditions as of 12/03/2019.
 

Across the country, moderate to extreme drought (D1 to D3) conditions were widespread across the southern United States, but not in Arkansas. In general, the situation was improving in the southeast, and worsening in the southwest.

 

A ridge of high pressure ("H") flattened enough during the first week of October, 2019 to allow the flow aloft to bring storm systems ("L") and cold fronts into Arkansas.
In the picture: A ridge of high pressure ("H") flattened enough during the first week of October, 2019 to allow the flow aloft to bring storm systems ("L") and cold fronts into Arkansas.
 

Here at home, there were drought conditions as October began, mainly across the southwest counties. On the 1st, there was a moderate drought (D1) in 12% of the state, and a severe drought (D2) covered 6% of the area. A persistent area of high pressure was responsible for the drought. As the month forged ahead, the high flattened and the flow aloft brought storm systems/fronts. This resulted in areas of heavy rain and blasts of cooler air.

 

Forty eight hour rainfall through 700 am CDT on 10/16/2019.
In the picture: Forty eight hour rainfall through 700 am CDT on 10/16/2019.
 

For example, in the forty eight hour period ending at 700 am CDT on the 16th, two to more than four inches of rain dumped toward the Louisiana border. More than a half foot of precipitation fell in the far northwest on the 5th/6th. By the time October ended, rainfall was well above average (by two to three times the normal amount) in the northwest and portions of the south/east, including El Dorado (Union County), Fayetteville (Washington County), Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Harrison (Boone County), and West Memphis (Crittenden County). 

It was very dry in places prior to October when high pressure was dominant. In August, less than an inch of rain fell at El Dorado (Union County), with under two inches at Texarkana (Miller County). Much more of the region experienced dryness in September. Precipitation was an inch to more than two inches below average at many locations. From July 22nd through the end of September, only 0.41 inch of rain settled the dust at El Dorado (Union County).

Heat was a large contributor to the drought. Average temperatures were 6 to 10 degrees above normal in September. At Little Rock (Pulaski County), it was the second warmest September on record. From the 1st through the 19th, it was at or above 90 degrees every day. That had not occurred locally in recorded history.

 

Making History

Statewide, it was the second warmest September since 1895, and only a tenth of a degree from the record set in 1925. It was a Top 30 dry September, but far more wet (by an inch and a half) than the record driest year of 2004. Breaking the state into sections, there was record warmth in Climate Division 7 (southwest counties) and Top 3 dryness in Climate Division 8 (south central counties). This is where drought conditions developed.

 

At Harrison (Boone County) and Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), it was the third and fifth warmest September respectively. It was actually warmer in September than August at West Memphis (Crittenden County).

Moving ahead to November, the month started with a little dryness in the southwest. Unfortunately, not much fell from the sky, and rainfall was two to three inches subpar at El Dorado (Union County) and Texarkana (Miller County). Above average amounts were confined to the north, with a surplus of liquid by over two inches at Harrison (Boone County).   

 

Precipitation in November, 2019
Site Amount Normal +/- % of Normal
Fayetteville (NW AR) 4.52 4.23 +0.29 107%
Harrison (NC AR) 6.89 4.23 +2.66 163%
Jonesboro (NE AR) 5.16 4.90 +0.26 105%
Fort Smith (WC AR) 4.41 4.44 -0.03 99%
Little Rock (C AR) 4.20 5.28 -1.08 80%
West Memphis (EC AR) 3.61 4.95 -1.34 73%
Texarkana (SW AR) 2.45 4.82 -2.37 51%
El Dorado (SC AR) 2.02 4.89 -2.87 41%
Pine Bluff (SE AR) 3.51 4.83 -1.32 73%

 

For the year (2019), there was more than the usual precipitation through November. Rainfall was above normal by more than fifteen inches at Fayetteville (Washington County), Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Jonesboro (Craighead County), Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), and West Memphis (Crittenden County).

 

Precipitation in 2019 (Through November)
Site Amount Normal +/- % of Normal
Fayetteville (NW AR) 63.93 45.27 +18.66 141%
Harrison (NC AR) 55.60 40.94 +14.66 136%
Jonesboro (NE AR) 63.34 43.33 +20.01 146%
Fort Smith (WC AR) 66.63 42.17 +24.46 158%
Little Rock (C AR) 58.84 44.78 +14.06 131%
West Memphis (EC AR) 71.77 46.81 +23.96 153%
Texarkana (SW AR) 50.13 44.60 +5.53 112%
El Dorado (SC AR) 58.88 47.74 +11.14 123%
Pine Bluff (SE AR) 61.67 45.71 +15.96 135%

 

Excessive rain and river flooding were major factors leading to a lack of planting by farmers in Arkansas. The Black, Cache, Ouachita, and lower White Rivers were high to overflowing at times through the spring. Then the Arkansas River reached unprecedented levels in late May and early June. Fields were either under water or too wet for use through much of the beginning of the growing season. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a report on August 12th, and it was mentioned that the state had 1.3 million unplanted (or prevented) acres. This was 5th highest in the nation. Within a couple of days, 44 counties were declared primary natural disaster areas, and 24 neighboring counties were designated as contiguous disaster areas.

 

It was wet to very wet across much of Arkansas in 2018, especially across central and southern sections.
Precipitation  |  Departure From Normal  |  Percent of Normal
In the pictures: It was wet to very wet across much of Arkansas in 2018, especially across central and southern sections.
 

It was a Top 10 wet year in 2018. The statewide average rainfall was just over 64 inches, which is more than 14 inches above average. Precipitation was at least 20 inches in the plus category at Little Rock (Pulaski County) and Pine Bluff (Jefferson County).

 

Precipitation in 2018
Site Amount Normal +/- % of Normal
Fayetteville (NW AR) 46.63 48.51 -2.15 96%
Harrison (NC AR) 47.78 44.14 +3.64 108%
Jonesboro (NE AR) 67.80 48.10 +19.70 141%
Fort Smith (WC AR) 54.17 45.46 +8.71 119%
Little Rock (C AR) 71.41 49.75 +21.66 144%
West Memphis (EC AR) 55.49 52.23 +3.26 106%
Texarkana (SW AR) 54.95 49.65 +5.30 111%
El Dorado (SC AR) 58.98 52.92 +6.06 111%
Pine Bluff (SE AR) 76.83 51.15 +25.68 150%

 

Drought outlook through February, 2020.
In the picture: Drought outlook through February, 2020.
 

Looking ahead, the forecast is leaning toward a drier than normal winter, especially in southern Arkansas. While there will be wet periods (and chances of wintry precipitation if cold air is in place), big slugs of moisture should be less than usual. As a side note, the degree of dryness will dictate the concern of a developing drought in the spring/early summer of 2020. This will be evaluated more closely as winter progresses.

 

Precipitation Statistics (2014-2018)
Site 2018 +/- 2017 +/- 2016 +/- 2015 +/- 2014 +/- Total +/-
Fayetteville (NW AR) 46.63 -2.15 51.22 +2.71 33.37 -15.14 65.71 +17.20 39.08 -9.43 -6.81
Harrison (NC AR) 47.78 +3.64 40.89 -3.25 35.41 -8.73 62.64 +18.50 41.20 -2.94 +7.22
Jonesboro (NE AR) 67.80 +19.70 46.07 -2.03 52.56 +4.46 64.53 +16.43 44.15 -3.95 +34.61
Fort Smith (WC AR) 54.17 +8.71 47.96 +2.50 31.18 -14.28 73.93 +28.47 42.14 -3.32 +22.08
Little Rock (C AR) 71.41 +21.66 47.27 -2.48 56.12 +6.37 61.23 +11.48 48.13 -1.62 +35.41
West Memphis (EC AR) 55.49 +3.26 46.64 -5.59 53.02 +0.79 49.04 -3.19 49.08 -3.15 -7.88
Texarkana (SW AR) 54.95 +5.30 50.03 +0.38 49.33 -0.32 63.54 +13.89 35.24 -14.41 +4.84
El Dorado (SC AR) 58.98 +6.06 46.70 -6.22 61.64 +8.72 59.94 +7.02 41.03 -11.89 +3.69
Pine Bluff (SE AR) 76.83 +25.68 50.80 -0.35 54.38 +3.23 51.31 +0.16 41.41 -9.74 +18.98

 

In recent years, when the rain stopped coming and very dry conditions developed, it was a short term worry. Drought breakers such as a deluge from mid-November to mid-December, 2011 took care of the problem.

 

Thirty day rainfall through 600 am CST on 12/11/2011. Twelve to more than eighteen inches of rain was measured from Mena (Polk County) to Mount Ida (Montgomery County), Russellville (Pope County), Little Rock (Pulaski County), Jonesboro (Craighead County) and West Memphis (Crittenden County).
In the picture: Thirty day rainfall through 600 am CST on 12/11/2011.

 

Hurricane Isaac brought much needed rain to drought stricken areas of the south and east in late August, 2012. Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) had 8.39 inches in the forty eight hour period ending at 700 am CDT on September 1st.

Hurricane Isaac was just off the coast of Louisiana at 425 pm CDT on 08/28/2012.
In the picture: Hurricane Isaac was just off the coast of Louisiana at 425 pm CDT on 08/28/2012.

 

In September, 2013, areas from Little Rock (Pulaski County) southward got two to four inches of rain, with locally over six inches on the 19th/20th. Some of these amounts exceeded what would normally be expected during the entire month. This busted a short term extreme (D3) drought that peaked just a few days prior to the rain.

The southern half of Arkansas dealt with a moderate to extreme drought (D2 to D4) in October, 2015. Very dry air and heat in the middle of the month made conditions worse. On the 15th, Little Rock experienced the hottest October day on record when the thermometer showed 98 degrees. Fast forward to the wettest November in recorded state history, and the drought was erased.

 

Precipitation Trends

 

Streamflow and Soil Moisture
 
Most recent streamflow (values in the 25th to 75th percentile are normal)
Most recent soil moisture (values between 30 and 70 percent are normal)

 

Fire Danger

 

The Forecast