Fox News Weather Center

When will rain return to the drought-stricken southern US?

The pattern of rain avoiding the interior southern United States is likely to continue in the short term, but will the pattern hold on through the upcoming winter?

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, short-term abnormally dry conditions extend from eastern Texas through Kentucky and southwestern Virginia with long-term exceptional drought in portions of northern Alabama to northern Georgia and southeastern Tennessee.

Even though rain will congregate over parts of the southern Plains and Rockies into next week, the atmosphere will continue the pattern of limited moisture that will barely produce clouds let alone rain for the interior South.

Somewhat of a pattern change is possible toward the middle of November.

There is some hint that a large dip in the jet stream will set up sometime between Nov. 12 and Nov. 18, according to AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok.

The jet stream is a fast river of air high in the atmosphere that storm systems travel along. Typically, where a dip in the jet stream establishes the weather pattern is often cooler and wetter. To the contrary, a jet stream that bulges northward typically yields warmth for a region.

"If this idea is correct, there could be sporadic rainfall developing toward the middle of the month in parts of the Southeastern states, including part of the drought area," Pastelok said.

This alone would not be enough to break the drought but could dampen the landscape to the point where the brushfire risk would lower in some locations.

At the very least, an end to the extreme warmth is likely around or shortly after the middle of the month.

The best chance of drought relief in the hard-hit areas will be during the winter.

"We expect fronts to stall over the Southeastern states with storms traveling along the fronts beginning during mid- to late-December and through January," Pastelok said.

With this setup, the storms would pull Gulf of Mexico moisture northward over all or part of the drought areas in the form of drenching rain and perhaps severe thunderstorms. However, the exact storm track will hold the key as to where the heaviest rain will fall versus severe storms.

Areas north and west of the storm track will be the wettest with the greatest threat for severe weather occurring south and east of the storm track.

"During February, the storm track may shift farther to the west and north, which could push the heaviest rainfall west of the Appalachians and could pull the severe weather area into some of the drought locations," Pastelok said.

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Even if rain arrives during the middle of the winter, recovery is likely to be slow.

It could take many weeks and perhaps months for reservoirs and lakes to significantly rebound and perhaps longer for the water table and wells to respond. However, a turnaround or a lessening of drought conditions could occur before the hot weather season returns later next spring and summer.