Sunday, April 22, 2018

National Drought Mitigation Center

October 2013 Drought and Impact Summary

Drought Entrenched in West, Improving in South, Plains and Midwest, Emerging in Northeast

  The U.S. Monthly Drought Outlook from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center shows drought persisting in the West and upper Midwest and improving in the South.
  October started with 41.21 percent of the contiguous United States in drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
This one-month change map from the National Drought Mitigation Center shows the biggest improvement for the month in Wyoming, Nebraska and the Dakotas.
  October ended with 34.70 percent of the contiguous 48 states in drought.

by Brian Fuchs, NDMC Climatologist

Outlook: Drought will persist over much of the western half of the United States in November. Some improvements may occur in portions of east Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. Improvements may also take place over Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri. Drought will continue on both Hawaii and Alaska.

Temperatures: October temperatures were 2-4 degrees Fahrenheit above normal in New England, while much of the western United States was 2-4 degrees below normal. Most areas east of the Mississippi River including most of Texas had above-normal temperatures in October while all other areas were below normal.

Snow: Many mountainous areas recorded their first snows of the year as did some areas of the High Plains and upper Midwest. A devastating early blizzard hit parts of South Dakota, Wyoming, and Nebraska and killed thousands of cattle.

Precipitation: Precipitation was highly variable during the month with no real pattern to the wet and dry areas in the United States. With an active weather pattern over the High Plains, much of the Dakotas, Wyoming, eastern Nebraska and Minnesota recorded precipitation that was 2-4 inches above normal. The wet pattern included areas of eastern Kansas, central and eastern Texas, and the Ohio River Valley, where precipitation was generally 2-4 inches above normal. Some areas in Texas recorded 8 or more inches above normal for the month. After a wet summer, the Southeast continued to be dry with much of the region receiving 2-4 inches below normal rainfall. The western United States was also dry with many areas along the West Coast receiving 2-4 inches of precipitation below normal and some areas of Washington getting 6-8 inches below normal.

Drought Coverage: October started with 41.21 percent of the contiguous United States in drought and ended with 34.70 percent in drought. The levels of severe to extreme drought dropped by 1-2 percentage points, while the amount of exceptional drought was static. The only areas of exceptional drought left were in a few counties of Oklahoma and Texas along the Red River, a few counties in southeast Colorado, and a portion of central Nevada. The entire area of extreme drought was contained to areas west of the Missouri River Basin. In contrast, October 2012 ended with just over 60 percent of the country in drought and almost 6 percent in exceptional drought. 

Regional Roundup

Movers & Shakers for October 2013

State  Percent area
Oct. 1, 2013
Percent  area Oct. 29, 2013

Biggest Increases in Drought

Connecticut 0 18.04
Rhode Island 0 24.18 moderate
Massachusetts 0 44.72 moderate

Biggest Improvements in Drought


85.48  47.85 moderate
49.34  27.39

 57.27 16.33 moderate
22.14  0.44 severe
 South Dakota 25.34  0 moderate
 Minnesota 46.69 25.79 moderate
 Texas 70.95 58.51 moderate
 Louisiana 14.33  0.98 moderate
46.36 36.37 severe


Northeast: Drought crept into portions of New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey this month, comprising a little over 3 percent of the Northeast region. Lack of precipitation and warmer temperatures led to the depiction on the United States Drought Monitor, with brush fires and decreasing streamflows being the most discussed impacts in the region.

Southeast: By the end of October, 24.09 percent of the Southeast was classified as abnormally dry. The lack of an active tropical season contributed to dry conditions.

Midwest: Drought in the Midwest improved in October from 30.56 to 24.14 percent of the region. Severe drought was still evident over northern Missouri, southeast Iowa, central Illinois and part of Minnesota, improving from 11.64 percent of the region at the beginning of October to 8.49 percent at the end.

High Plains: Conditions in the High Plains continued to improve with ample fall precipitation. The proportion of the area in drought shrank from 43.21 to 22.40 percent during the month. Severe drought conditions improved from 19.50 to 11.80 percent while extreme drought areas declined from 3.01 to 2.05 percent. By the end of the month, both North and South Dakota were drought-free for the first time since August 30, 2011.

South: Drought conditions continued to improve slowly, even over areas of Texas and Oklahoma where drought has continued for almost three years. The area in drought declined from 50.11 to 40.03 percent of the region in October, and severe to exceptional coverage also improved from 17.90 to 13.59 percent. But a new area of severe drought appeared in Texas, reflecting the historic lows of the reservoir system associated with the Colorado River.

West: After substantial improvements in the West at the end of summer and beginning of fall, conditions improved slightly in October, mainly over portions of Wyoming and Colorado. Drought coverage improved from 58.96 to 53.62 percent during the month while severe drought improved from 34.18 to 32.25 percent. These were the lowest coverage amounts since June 2012. 


Corn crop not hurt much by late summer drought in Corn Belt; Water supplies down in West

By Denise Gutzmer, Drought Impact Specialist

The Drought Impact Reporter currently shows 53 impacts, mostly in western states, for October 2013, including 27 related to water supply and 23 related to agriculture.

The chart at left from the USDA's World Agricultural Outlook Board shows U.S. corn production in blue (right axis) and exports in red (left axis). Both fell in 2012. 

The chart above left shows U.S. Corn exports falling dramatically in 2012 but other exporters picking up the slack. The chart above right shows demand from Japan, S. Korea and Taiwan in green, from the Middle East and North Africa in yellow, and from other developing countries in red. Both are from the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service.

This map from California's Department of Water Resources shows water stored in reservoirs across the state is below historic averages.  


This photo by Timothy Benson, Ropesville, Texas, shows a drought-stricken corn crop near Wilson, Texas, on Oct. 25, 2013. Photo courtesy of Texas Water Development Board. 

After a warm September, crops were ready for harvest in October, revealing yields that were better than expected, given the late developing drought in the Corn Belt. Corn in drought-affected areas, such as Iowa, performed better than expected, depending on soil type, while corn in wetter areas of the U.S. did exceptionally well, compensating for lower yields elsewhere.

The USDA did not issue its usual crop reports in October, due to the government shutdown, and resumed issuing crop estimates in November. The USDA’s September crop report put estimated corn production at 13.8 billion bushels and soybean production at 3.15 billion bushels.

Corn exports resume after 2012 drought

Cargo ships began lining up at Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, in early October 2013 to load up on grain to take back to Japan and China.  These ports have not seen cargo ships filling with Midwestern grain since drought started in 2012.

For the 2012 crop year, U.S. corn exports were projected to be only 715 million bushels, the least amount since 1970, as drought curbed corn production in the U.S. and corn production outside the U.S. increased. Wheat exports exceeded corn exports in 2012 for the first time since 1970. [1]

Grain exports through Seattle fell to just 3.1 million tons in 2012, down from 5 million tons in 2011. The trend was similar in Tacoma where exports in 2012 were 4.8 million tons, compared to nearly 6 million tons in 2011. [2]

Last year’s drought also curbed soybean exports to just 5.83 million tons from April through September 2013. During the same time frame in 2012, 15.2 million tons were exported, and in 2011, 10.4 million tons were shipped abroad. Brazil stepped up its exports this year to fill the void.[3]

Drought’s strain on the livestock industry

Years of drought have stressed the livestock industry, forcing producers to cull cattle as forage and water supplies become scarce, prompting changes in the industry. The cattle herd dipped to 89.3 million on Jan. 1, 2013, a low not seen since 1952. With fewer cattle, the nation has a greater livestock capacity than needed, leading businesses like Cargill to downsize.

Cargill officials announced that the cattle feed yard in Lockney, Texas, would close during the summer of 2014, due to the small cattle population in the region, years of drought and smaller grain harvests in the area for feed. The director of communications for Cargill stated that the regional drought that began in 2011 increased the cost of feeding cattle from $2 per day per animal to $8 per day. The Lockney feed yard was established in 1985, employs 45 people and has a capacity of 6,200 cattle. [4]

Earlier this year, Cargill idled a meat processing plant, not 20 miles down the road from Lockney in nearby Plainview, Texas, on Feb. 1, 2013, for similar reasons. About 2,000 jobs were lost in a town of roughly 22,000 people. The high cost of corn resulted in another business casualty when an ethanol plant in Plainview, Texas, belonging to White Energy stopped production on Jan. 7, due to the high cost of grains. [5, 6]

Water Supply

Persistent drought in the western U.S. has strained water supplies, as demand has exceeded supply, and is approaching a critical situation without good snowfall this winter.

Colorado River Basin

The Colorado River Basin needs above-normal snowfall to prevent water shortages as the levels of lakes Powell and Mead continue to drop. The 14-year drought the region has endured has drained Lake Mead by a depth of 100 vertical feet and may cause the lake to hit a record low by November 2014. [7]


California farmers were warned by state and federal water providers to expect no water in the spring of 2014 and possibly no water for the entire growing season. This is not a workable solution for farmers with permanent crops, such as vineyards, orchards and groves. Without water, the crops will die, at an enormous cost to farmers. [8]

While California officials were not prepared to declare a statewide drought, residents were warned to conserve water because parts of the state could be short of water in 2014 if the upcoming winter does not bring abundant snowfall. [9]

Officials with the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) in southern California expected to receive less water from the state Department of Water Resources. They announced plans to draw water from stored reserves to avoid imposing mandatory cutbacks in 2014 as drought reduced the flow of the Colorado River and two dry winters in Sierra Nevada left water supplies low. The MWD is a consortium of 26 cities and water districts that provides drinking water to nearly 19 million people in parts of Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties. [10, 11]

In light of the impending water crisis if the coming winter is relatively dry, California officials developed a five-year Water Action Plan to help coordinate state agencies and avert a water supply crisis due to drought, population growth and climate change. [12]

Southern Idaho

Very little carryover water was left in reservoirs in the Upper Snake River Valley in southern Idaho. The Twin Falls Canal Company shut off water to irrigators on Oct. 15, a week earlier than planned, to conserve water for next year’s irrigation season.  American Falls and Jackson Lake, the two lakes that provide water for the irrigation company, were at 7 and 18 percent of capacity, which was the lowest level at the end of the irrigation season since the end of a five year drought in 2005. [13]


Fitch Ratings downgraded Fort Worth’s water and sewer bonds in April 2013, the first time a reduction was directly related to drought. Garland and the San Patricio Municipal Water District’s water and sewer revenue bonds were on negative outlook. [14]

Water storage in Upper Missouri River reservoirs

Reservoirs in the Missouri River Basin remained about 7 million acre-feet short of water through October 2013, due to last year’s drought. Consequently, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continued to operate in conservation mode, in spite of recent precipitation, keeping water releases at a minimum to allow the reservoirs to refill.

The present low reservoir levels will probably preclude full-service navigation on the Missouri River in 2014. [15, 16]

Drought cutting into agribusiness’s revenue

Agribusinesses were still recovering from the effects of last year’s drought on their grain purchases and pricing.

Cargill’s first quarter net earnings in 2014 were $571 million, 41 percent lower than last year’s record quarter of $975 million. The first quarter revenue was $33.8 billion, the same as one year ago. Due to drought, there were fewer grain handling opportunities during the first quarter, which runs from June through August. [17]

Louis Dreyfus, one of four global companies dealing in agricultural goods, saw a 13 percent drop in net income, or $258.4 million, for continuing operations during the first half of 2013, compared to the first half of 2012. The 2012 drought hurt its oilseed and grains trading and crushing operations. [18]

Wildlife affected by drought

Black bears have been causing more problems than usual for Nevada wildlife officials as the bears seek food in northern Nevada and the foothills of the Carson Range before their winter hibernation. Drought reduced the amount of nuts and berries available, leaving the bears to roam into residential areas in search of a meal. Three black bears wandered into Carson City in the latter part of October.

The exact number of nuisance bears was not available because the state biologist has been too busy answering calls about bears to tally them up, but 2013 may turn out to be one of the most active years on record. [19]

A fish kill in the Deschutes River near Bend, Oregon, involving thousands of fish, including trout, mountain whitefish and sculpin, was blamed on a number of unusual conditions this year, such as drought, fish migrating out of Wickiup Reservoir, and less water in the river. [20]

Texans document drought with social media

Texans posted their drought pictures and shared their innovative water conservation methods via social media sites. The Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas Water Development Board and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department began a photo collection campaign in August and received some amazing and heart-breaking photos.[21]

View some of the Texas drought photos via flickr:

Agricultural irrigation high during 2012 in Wisconsin

Agricultural water users in Wisconsin used more groundwater than municipalities in 2012, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The DNR’s annual report stated that groundwater withdrawals for agricultural use increased 83 percent to 135.2 billion gallons in 2012, while municipal use crept up just 2.6 percent. Prior to 2012, municipalities were the largest users of groundwater, but drought drove farmers to pump more groundwater for irrigation.

Of the groundwater pumped in 2012, 46 percent was for farm irrigation and 34 percent was for municipalities. In 2011, farms used 35 percent of the total groundwater pumped and municipalities used 42 percent.

Drought in 2012 made Wisconsin farmers long for greater irrigation capability. From the start of 2013 through Oct. 1, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources approved the construction of 258 new irrigation wells. The DNR approved an average of 122 new irrigation wells annually between 2007 and 2012, less than half the number given the go-ahead in 2013. [22]


1Corn exports,” by Daryll E. Ray and Harwood Shaffer, Agweek (Grand Forks, N.D.), Oct. 14, 2013.

2Line of ships on Puget Sound hints at rebound,” Associated Press, Businessweek (New York, N.Y.), Oct. 16, 2013.

3U.S. Soybean Exports Seen Setting Record as South America Fades,” by Rudy Ruitenberg, Bloomberg (New York, N.Y.), Oct 8, 2013.

4Cargill to close Lockney feedlot due to drought,” by Homer Marquez, (Texas), Oct. 15, 2013.

5Cargill to idle Texas beef plant,” by Mike Hughlett, Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minn.), Jan. 17, 2013.

6Another Plainview business impacted by drought,” KJTV-TV 34 Fox Lubbock (Texas), Jan. 29, 2013.

7Colorado River faces critical snow season,” by Henry Brean, Reno (Nevada) Gazette-Journal, Oct. 26, 2013.

8Looming 2014 California water crisis strikes fear in farmers,” by Harry Cline, Farm Press Blog, Oct. 8, 2013.

9Another dry year could be bad news for California,” by Bettina Boxall, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 14, 2013.

10Metropolitan Prepared to Meet Water Demands in 2014, Despite Questions over Future of Region’s Imported Water Sources,” Business Wire (San Francisco), Oct. 14, 2013.

11SoCal Water Agency Braces For Reduced Imports Due To Drought,” CBS Los Angeles, Oct. 14, 2103.

12Water Action Plan created to help avoid statewide crisis,” by Matt Weiser, The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee, Oct. 31, 2013.

13Water Cut-off Hits Early for Farmers,” by Brian Smith, (Twin Falls, Idaho), Oct. 14, 2013.

14Drought affecting Texas water utilities' revenues,” by Barbara Vergetis Lundin, FierceEnergy (Washington, D.C.), Oct. 29, 2013.

15Corps To Keep Basin On Drought Measures,” by Randy Dockendorf, Yankton (South Dakota) Daily Press & Dakotan, Oct. 21, 2013.

16Drought still impacting Missouri River management,” Associated Press, Missoula (Mont.) Missoulian, Oct. 29, 2013.

17Cargill profits drop 41 percent from year-ago record high,” by Nick Halter, Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, Oct. 9, 2013.

18Louis Dreyfus reports drop in net income after U.S. drought,” Reuters, Oct. 3, 2013.

19It's a busy season for bears in Nevada,” by Jeff DeLong, Reno (Nevada) Gazette-Journal, Oct. 28, 2013.

20State offers first findings on big Deschutes fish kill,” KTVZ (Bend, Oregon), Oct. 23, 2013.

21Coalition of State Agencies Extends Drought Photo Campaign, Asks Texans to Share Photos Documenting Conservation, Positive Drought Response (10/1/2013),” Texas Department of Agriculture, Oct. 1, 2013.

22DNR: Drought dramatically increased groundwater pumping in 2012,” by Lee Bergquist, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Oct. 22, 2013.


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