May 2013 Drought Summary
|May 2013 started with 46.90 percent of the contiguous United States in drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
|By the end of May 2013, the total area of the contiguous United States in drought was down to 44.34 percent.
||This map from the Climate Prediction Center shows how much the U.S. Drought Monitor changed, May 7-June 4. Greens are improvement; yellow is no change; browns are worsening.
April brought improvements to drought in the Midwest, and they not only continued in May, but spread into the Central Plains. Areas of Iowa, southern Minnesota and Illinois recorded more than 10 inches of rain for the month, while other areas in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Tennessee all recorded precipitation amounts of more than 7 inches for the month. Not only did the month bring thunderstorms, but severe weather and tornadoes were common over the Plains, with several deadly tornadoes striking Oklahoma during the month. In stark contrast to 2012, the temperatures during May were well below-normal for most areas of the South, Midwest and Central Plains. Some departures from normal in the Southeast and upper Midwest were 4 degrees Fahrenheit below normal.
May started with 46.90 percent of the contiguous United States in drought and improved to 44.34 percent by the end of the month. In contrast, a year ago, at the end of May 2012, 37.37 percent of the 48 contiguous states were in drought. The United States as a whole – all 50 states and Puerto Rico -- also saw improvements as the percent area in drought diminished from 39.54 to 37.40. But regional changes were not all positive.
This time series shows the growing proportion of the West in each category of drought since the beginning of 2013.
During the month, drought expanded and intensified over the western United States. The proportion of the West in drought increased from 66.68 percent in early May to 71.11 percent by month’s end. In mid-April, only 1.87 percent of the western United States was in exceptional drought (D4), but by the end of May, this had increased to 5.99 percent. At the end of May 2012, only 53.34 percent of the western United States was in drought, so this has been a steady expansion and intensification of the drought in the region.
This time series shows reduction in each category of drought for the High Plains since the beginning of 2013.
Improvements were immanent in the High Plains as intense thunderstorms over the last two weeks of the month brought welcome relief that was not yet fully accounted for on the U.S. Drought Monitor map. May started with 85.04 percent of the High Plains in drought and ended with 72.98 percent in drought, a 12 percent reduction. The proportion of the area in D3-D4 drought at the beginning of May was 32.53 percent, and the month ended with 21.35 percent in D3-D4. Not only did the spatial extent of the drought diminish, but the intensity also lessened. With that being said, the High Plains ended May with 7.41 percent of the region in D4 drought, as the lingering effect of the 2012 drought is still very strong in places.
This time series shows improvement in each category of drought for the Midwest since the beginning of 2013.
The Midwest ended May free of D3-D4 drought for the first time since last June. May started with just 14.05 percent of the Midwest in drought and ended with 3.56 percent in drought. Most of this drought was confined to portions of Minnesota where long-term issues have existed for well over a year.
The Vegetation Drought Response Index (VegDRI) map for June 3 shows a relatively clear delineation across Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma between areas that have and have not received recent precipitation. It also shows long-term drought in the Southwest.
Several states are dealing with long-term drought. Hawaii has been in continuous drought of some degree since April 2008. Arizona has been in drought since August 2009. Texas has been in drought since April 2010. Oklahoma has been in drought since June 2010. Colorado has been in drought since September 2010. New Mexico and Kansas have been in drought since November 2010. With the improvements that have been observed in the drought since 2012, we have seen drought shift out of the Midwest and eastern portions of the Plains. At the same time, drought has developed and intensified to the west, with a sharp gradient between areas that have received ample precipitation and those that have not.
Through the summer, the drought is projected to continue to improve over the central Plains and portions of the southern Plains. The official Seasonal Drought Outlook from the Climate Prediction Center does not show any drought development to the east of the Missouri River Basin, while drought will persist and develop in the West throughout the summer months. There is a high likelihood of above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation for much of the western United States during the summer months.
-- Brian Fuchs, NDMC Climatologist
May 2013 Drought Impacts Summary
| The Drought Impact Reporter currently shows 165 impacts for May 2013.
|This chart shows the proportion of impacts in each category for the eight states with the most drought impacts.
|This chart shows how the 523 reports added to the Drought Impact Reporter in May 2013 were categorized. NDMC moderators create impacts from reports.
The start of May brought concerns about wildfire danger as the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise warned of above-normal fire activity on the West Coast, in the Southwest and in parts of Idaho and Montana. InciWeb recorded fires in May in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Wisconsin and Alaska. Many western states and federal and state lands have restrictions on outdoor burning and the sale and use of fireworks.
Cattle sales were above-normal at auction in Salina, Kansas, as producers from Colorado, western Kansas and Nebraska gave in and sold due to lack of water and pasture. Sales were also high in western South Dakota, the panhandle of Oklahoma, southern Texas and southwestern Colorado.
Beef prices were at record highs as drought kept feed prices high and contributed to the shrinking of the nationwide cattle herd to the lowest level since 1952. The average price of steak was $4.81 per pound, while ground beef sold for $3.51 per pound in late May.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported hay stocks nationwide on May 1 were 14.2 million tons, the smallest amount since 2007 and the least amount on hand on May 1 in data going back to 1973. May 1 hay stocks were 36 percent below the 10-year average. 
Winter wheat, which had a poor outlook from the start, due to low soil moisture at planting, struggled through a relatively dry winter. Drought and freeze damage are expected to trim wheat production in Nebraska by 20 percent compared to 2012, in Kansas by 18 percent, in Oklahoma by 45 percent, and in Texas by nearly 44 percent. Overall, the USDA expects the winter wheat crop to be 10 percent smaller than in 2012.
Severely reduced water supplies forced cutbacks on irrigation deliveries in southern New Mexico, where reservoirs are dropping to historically low levels. Limited water supplies are forcing farmers in southern Oregon to irrigate early or forego planting.
Municipal water supply
April rains washed unused nitrogen from Iowa farm fields into rivers, causing nitrate levels to spike to new highs in rivers supplying water for Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. During drought in 2012, plants did not take up all the fertilizer that was applied. Equipment to remove the nitrates cost Des Moines $4 million to purchase and $7,000 daily to run. High nitrate levels in drinking water supplies are often a concern in Illinois and other areas, too.
Deer in parts of South Dakota were decimated by epizootic hemorrhagic disease during drought in 2012, leading wildlife officials to recommend a reduction in the number of tags available to allow the population to recover.
Vegetation was stressed statewide in Nevada, prompting the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to remove some wild horses in Elko and White Pine counties in northeastern Nevada due to inadequate forage and water supplies.
-- Denise Gutzmer, Drought Impact Specialist
1 U.S. Department of Agriculture Press Release. “Secretaries Vilsack and Jewell Highlight Federal Preparedness for 2013 Western Wildfire Season: Officials emphasize interagency partnership, public awareness as keys to protecting communities from wildfire.” Release No. 0092.13, May 13, 2013.
2 Bickel, Amy. “Onslaught of cows.” The Hutchinson (Kansas) News, May 9, 2013.
3 Cook, Andrea J. “More rain needed to break drought.” Rapid City (South Dakota) Journal, May 20, 2013.
4 CoCoRaHS Report from Cimmaron County, Oklahoma, Station #Keyes 10.3 NE on 5/13/2013
5 CoCoRaHS Report from Jim Wells County, Texas, Station #Orange Grove 3.3 NW on 5/13/2013
6 Cowan, Emery. “Heading into summer, already parched.” The Durango (Colorado) Herald, May 19, 2013.
7 Weise, Elizabeth. “Prices are hitting record highs as the summer grilling season starts.” USA Today, May 30, 2013.
8 Pirtle, Randy. “Reports signal limited year for forages.” Bartlesville (Oklahoma) Examiner-Enterprise, May 16, 2013.
9 Hovey, Art. “State wheat outlook worst in 69 years.” Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal-Star, May 11, 2013.
10 Ingwersen, Julie. “Kansas wheat crop seen down 18% after drought, cold spring.” Reuters, May 2, 2013.
11 Dreibus, Tony C. “Oklahoma wheat output seen falling 45 percent after drought, freeze.” Bloomberg News, May 2, 2013.
12 Hegeman, Roxana. “Report: US winter wheat production forecast down.” Associated Press, May 10, 2013
13 Fleck, John. “Drought watch: Conservancy District ratchets down deliveries.” Albuquerque (New Mexico) Journal, May 29, 2013
14 DeWitt, Joce. “Agencies prepare for intense Oregon wildfire season.” Statesman Journal (Salem, Oregon), May 14, 2013.
15 Associated Press. “Record nitrate levels from farm runoff are tainting Iowa rivers.” Omaha World-Herald, May 11, 2013.
16 Dockendorf, Randy. “Deer Tag Numbers To Drop?” Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, May 16, 2013.
17 Associated Press. “Drought prompts plan to remove wild horses in NV.” Elko (Nevada) Daily Free Press, May 26, 2013.
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