Thursday, March 22, 2018

National Drought Mitigation Center

November 2015 Drought and Impact Summary

November rains shrink drought

The NOAA's Climate Prediction Center produces the Monthly Drought Outlook.
The U.S. Drought Monitor time series chart can be generated at a variety of spatial and temporal scales.

The two maps above are from the High Plains Regional Climate Center.

 Find these and other products related to the U.S. Drought Monitor on the USDM website.

By Brian Fuchs, NDMC Climatologist

Drought Outlook

Drought is expected to improve during December over the Northeast and portions of the Midwest and Plains. Much of the western drought will persist because it will take time for hoped-for winter rains and snows to have an effect.


With an active precipitation pattern bringing relief, drought in the contiguous 48 states receded in November. Drought intensity also decreased, especially over portions of the western United States. As of Dec. 1, 20.58 percent of the continental United States was in drought, down from 30.27 percent on Oct. 27. This compares to 28.68 percent on Dec. 30, 2014, and 29.13 percent on Dec. 2, 2014. Severe drought in the continental U.S. improved in November from 17.21 to 14.68 percent, extreme drought improved from 10.34 to 8.34 percent, and exceptional drought improved from 3.00 to 2.70 percent. Currently, about 77.8 million people live in drought-affected places, compared to approximately 97.3 million at the beginning of November. More than 20 million people are in places in exceptional drought, mainly in California and Nevada.


Almost all areas east of the Rocky Mountains recorded above-normal temperatures during November. The greatest departures were over the Upper Midwest and Florida, where temperatures were 6-8 degrees above normal, while most other areas were 2-4 degrees above normal. In the West, several storm systems during the month ushered in cooler air. Temperatures were 2-4 degrees below normal during the month.


A series of storms emerged from the Four Corners and moved across the southern Plains, Lower Mississippi Valley and Southeast, bringing flooding rains. For November, much of this area had precipitation of 6-9 inches above normal, with some areas of northeast Texas and eastern Oklahoma more than 10 inches wetter than normal. The Northeast and Ohio River Valley regions were up to 3 inches drier than normal. Precipitation was scattered over the West, with most areas wetter than usual, although areas along the southern coast of Oregon and northern California were exceptions, as much as 6 inches drier than normal.

Regional Overviews


November was warm and dry across the Northeast. Temperatures were 4-6 degrees warmer than normal, while most of the region was 1-3 inches drier than normal. Only as one approached areas of southern Virginia and Maryland did precipitation reach above-normal levels. The long-term drought conditions in New England did not change at all during November, although the abnormally dry area decreased slightly from 27.36 to 26.56 percent of the region.

Movers & Shakers for November 2015

Percent area
Oct. 27, 2015
Percent area
Dec. 1, 2015
Status Percentage point change

No state had an increase in drought intensity of more than 3 percent in November

Biggest improvements in drought
11.14 0.00 moderate 11.14
Arizona 50.14 29.87 moderate 20.27
Arkansas 46.68 0.00 moderate 46.68
33.00 0.00 severe 33.00
Florida 3.45 0.33 moderate 3.12
Georgia 13.83 0.00 moderate 13.83
Idaho 82.14 67.45 moderate 14.69
45.42 42.15 severe 3.27
28.49 8.38 extreme 20.11
23.89 0.00 moderate 23.89
Indiana 38.33 18.07 moderate 20.26
5.91 0.00 moderate 5.91
Kansas 14.49 4.51 moderate 9.98
Kentucky 12.60 0.00 moderate 12.60
Louisiana 45.51 0.00 moderate 45.51
Minnesota 7.07 0.00 moderate 7.07
Mississippi 44.52 0.00 moderate 44.52
Missouri 36.07 0.00 moderate 36.07
Montana 16.92 5.63 extreme
73.20 66.21 severe 6.99
35.21 31.94 extreme 3.27
15.93 9.35 exceptional
New Mexico
7.87 0.00 moderate 7.87
Oklahoma 17.68 0.00 moderate 17.68
100.00 96.01 moderate 3.99
100.00 90.37 severe 9.63
67.29 60.62 extreme 6.67
Puerto Rico
25.52 16.17 severe 9.35
Tennessee 5.39 0.00 moderate 5.39
Texas 15.67 0.00 moderate 15.67
Utah 26.18 22.52 severe 3.66
Washington 100.00 64.49 moderate 35.51
90.91 60.38 severe 30.53
67.96 44.51 extreme 23.45
Wisconsin 3.50 0.00 moderate 3.50


Warm and wet conditions dominated the Southeast in November. Temperatures were 4-6 degrees warmer than normal for the entire region, and most of Florida had temperature departures of 6-8 degrees. Precipitation was abundant, with most areas at or above normal. The greatest departures from normal were in Georgia and the Carolinas, where many locations were 3-6 inches wetter than normal, and in the Florida Panhandle, where some areas were 6-10 inches wetter than usual. The abundant precipitation eliminated almost all drought from the Southeast. By the end of November, drought was only affecting a small area of south Florida (0.06 percent of the region), compared to 5.52 percent of the region in drought at the beginning of the month.


Temperatures in the Midwest were generally 2-4 degrees warmer than normal in November, although the upper Midwest was a mild 6-8 degrees above normal. Precipitation was mixed. Most areas were wetter than normal for the month, but areas of southern Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, eastern Kentucky and West Virginia were up to 3 inches drier than normal. Areas of southern Missouri were much wetter than usual, by as much as 7 inches. Most of the rest of the Midwest was 1-3 inches above normal. The abundant rain improved many of the drought areas, so drought in the region declined from 15.99 percent to 3.16 percent during November. The remaining short-term drought was mainly confined to areas of Indiana and Michigan.

High Plains

November temperatures across the High Plains ranged from 5 degrees above normal in the eastern part of the region to 5 degrees below normal in the western part. Precipitation was also mixed, with most of the eastern two-thirds of the region wetter than usual and the northern and western third normal or slightly dry. Drought declined from 3.95 to 2.03 percent during the month. Only a few pockets of drought remained in Kansas and North Dakota by the end of the month.


The South region was warm and had abundant moisture in November. Temperatures were generally 2-4 degrees above normal across the region, with the coolest temperatures in west Texas. Precipitation was above normal for almost the entire region, with areas of northeast Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and eastern Oklahoma recording precipitation of 6-9 inches or more above normal. The late summer and early fall drought that had developed over the region was quickly eliminated, similar to what happened in the spring. The South region started November with 23.74 percent in drought and 5.51 percent in severe drought, and ended with none.


Much of the western U.S. was cooler than normal in November, generally by 2-4 degrees. Precipitation was mixed, but generally speaking, most areas were near normal for the month. The Pacific Northwest saw a series of storms that brought enough rain to ease drought in Washington and Oregon. Areas of Idaho and western Montana also saw up to 2 inches more than usual precipitation. But the coastal regions of Oregon and much of northern California were up to 6 inches drier than normal. Drought declined, mainly in the Pacific Northwest and Four Corners regions. By the end of November, drought was affecting 48.88 percent of the West, compared to 55.42 percent at the beginning of the month. Severe drought improved from 41.21 to 37.23 percent of the region, extreme drought improved from 26.23 to 21.16 percent, and exceptional drought improved from 7.62 to 6.85 percent.

CA irrigation districts plan to capture anticipated El Niño rains; drought affecting crops in WA & TX

The two charts above summarize information from the Drought Impact Reporter.

The two charts above summarize information from the California Department of Water Resources Water Conditions page.
By Denise Gutzmer, Drought Impact Specialist

Intense drought remained entrenched in California as the state braced for another dry year and at the same time made preparations for flooding from the wet storms expected to arrive, courtesy of El Niño. Cities continued striving to conserve water while individuals and water districts alike planned to capture the precious rain expected to fall heavily in December, January and February. California had the most drought impacts in November with 38, while Texas and Nevada had nine and five, respectively.

California State Water Project offered initial allocation estimate of 10%

The 2016 initial allocation for the State Water Project was 10 percent of normal supplies, or half as much as was delivered in 2015, despite the expectation of heavy winter precipitation. Allocation estimates will be updated as the winter progresses. Water customers have not received a full allotment since 2006.

“California officials expect 10 percent deliveries from State Water Project,” by Dale Kasler and Phillip Reese, the Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Dec. 1, 2015

Continued water conservation efforts in California fell short

Water conservation remained the rule in California since June when Gov. Jerry Brown mandated 25 percent water conservation, compared to water use in 2013. Conservation efforts slipped to 22 percent in October, marking the first month that conservation fell below the mandated 25 percent since enforcement started in June. In the first five months of enforcement, water conservation efforts have saved an average of 27 percent per month, already putting the state at 76 percent of its conservation goal through February 2016.

“Californians miss water savings target for first time,” by Kurtis Alexander, San Francisco Chronicle (Calif.), Dec. 1, 2015

Gov. Jerry Brown extended the executive order requiring Californians to continue conserving water through October 2016 if drought conditions remain in January 2016. State water authorities have expanded powers to cope with drought and El Niño-enhanced storms expected this winter. Some environmental rules remained suspended, and the capture of abundant rainfall was encouraged.

“Water Conservation Order Is Extended in California,” by The Associated Press, The New York Times, Nov. 14, 2015

Irrigation districts planning to capture El Niño-driven relief

The massive El Niño simmering in the Pacific Ocean could lead to abundant rainfall in California this winter. During El Niño events as powerful as this one is, weather patterns often bring a series of storms over the southern U.S., which would be very welcome, given the past four years of drought in California.

The Fresno Irrigation District was preparing to bank groundwater ahead of the El Niño-enhanced storms expected to be rolling through California and alleviating drought during the winter. The Semitropic Water Storage District also planned to direct some of the flows from the Kings River into historic Tulare Lake and groundwater banking facilities.

El Niño could be the most powerful on record, scientists say,” by Rong-Gong Lin II and Rosanna Xia, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 17, 2015

Hopes ride on rainy season as storm rolls into Bay Area,” by Evan Sernoffsky, San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 2, 2015

 “To save water, an underground movement to bank El Niño's rainfall,” by Bettina Boxall, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 9, 2015

Emergency drought barrier dismantled in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

The emergency drought barrier in the West False River between Jersey and Bradford islands was completely dismantled after being installed in May and June to keep salt water out of the central Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The barrier maintained the water quality in the delta without the need to release large amounts of fresh water from upstream reservoirs to flush out salty water.

“Emergency Drought Barrier Removed from Delta, West False River Boating Restrictions Lifted,” East County Today (Antioch, Calif.), Nov. 17, 2015

Hungry bears invaded Three Rivers, California

Hungry bears invaded Three Rivers, on the west side of Sequoia National Park, in search of food as they prepared to hibernate for the winter. The ongoing four-year drought left the berry crop shriveled and acorns relatively scarce, leading bears to seek food in residential areas.

Drought drives bears into California town in search of food,” by Brian Melley, The Associated Press, Yahoo! News, Nov. 9, 2015

Heat, drought of late summer halved cotton yields in West Texas and Panhandle

The hot, dry August and September weather cut into high cotton yields in the Texas Panhandle and West Texas, where lush spring rains had promised a good crop. A Howard County farmer expected about 10,000 bales from his 6,500 acres of cotton fields, but will only get about 4,000 bales. The Midland farmers’ co-op cotton gin baled just 1,300 bales of cotton, considerably fewer than at this time in past years.

After promising start, cotton season ends on a low note,” by Brandon Mulder, Midland Reporter-Telegram (Texas), Nov. 8, 2015

Washington wheat fragile due to drought

Wheat fields in eastern Washington were so stressed from inadequate moisture that cold temperatures could kill the wheat crop, feared Washington Grain Board commission members.

Dry wheat conditions raise winterkill worries,” by Matthew Weaver, Capital Press (Salem, Ore.), Nov. 20, 2015

Stage IV Total Mandatory Water Conservation Alert in Milford, Massachusetts

Milford remained in a Stage IV Total Mandatory Water Conservation Alert, which took effect on Oct. 23, due to Echo Lake reservoir holding just 65 percent of capacity, its lowest level since January 2015. The water restrictions will likely remain in place until spring.

Milford water ban to stay until spring as Echo Lake remains low,” by Bill Shaner, Milford Daily News (Mass.), Nov. 10, 2015

Much of New Hampshire saw more fire activity than usual

The New Hampshire fall brush fire season has been active, with multiple-alarm fires in many towns in central, southern and eastern parts of the state. The region typically sees fires in the fall, but not as many as it saw in early November. Little rain had fallen since the latter part of summer.

Dry conditions lead to brush fires across New Hampshire,” by Dan Seufert, Manchester Union Leader (N.H.), Nov. 9, 2015

Dry fields kept Mississippi farmers from planting wheat

Mississippi wheat farmers did not have suitable conditions for planting wheat this fall because exceptionally dry weather left fields too dry. Rainfall finally came, but left fields too wet. Farmers were expected to plant up to 200,000 acres of wheat, but very little was planted through October, apart from that for wildlife food plots, forage and some acres in the most northeastern counties.

Drought impacted dirt slows Mississippi’s wheat planting,” by The Associated Press, (Birmingham, Ala.), Nov. 8, 2015

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