Thursday, March 22, 2018

National Drought Mitigation Center

October 2015 Drought and Impact Summary

Drought in October improved in the south Plains and Mississippi Delta, stayed over the West


By Brian Fuchs, NDMC Climatologist

Drought Outlook

According to the monthly drought outlook from the Climate Prediction Center, much of the drought in the western United States will persist through the end of November. Coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest are expected to improve, but drought will remain. The area from the southern Plains north through the Midwest also expected to improve, with most drought eliminated as we go into winter. Some improvement is likely in New England, but some drought will remain.


As the new water year began for the western United States, drought over the West remained nearly unchanged. The drought that developed during the late summer over the southern Plains and Mississippi Delta improved at the end of October. On Oct. 27, 30.27 percent of the contiguous 48 states was in drought, compared to 31.36 percent on Sept. 29. Severe drought conditions improved from 20.09 to 17.21 percent, extreme drought improved from 11.45 to 10.34 percent, and exceptional drought areas stayed the same. At the end of October, just over 99 million people were being impacted by drought compared to just over 112 million people at the beginning of the month.


October was warmer than normal over most of the United States, with the only areas recording below-normal temperatures along the Eastern Seaboard. The greatest departures from normal were over the Great Basin and the northern Rocky Mountains, where temperatures were 7-9 degrees above normal. Most areas were 2-4 degrees above normal for the month. Along the Eastern Seaboard, temperatures were about 2 degrees below normal, and were 2-4 degrees below normal in portions of New England.


Areas of the southern Plains and the Carolinas were wetter than normal in October with readings from 4-8 inches above normal in Texas to 8-12 inches above normal in the coastal Carolinas. Above-normal precipitation was recorded through much of the Four Corners region and portions of the High Plains as well as the Mid-Atlantic states. Departures were generally 2-4 inches above normal. Much of the Midwest, New England, Southeast, and West Coast remained dry, with below-normal precipitation.

Regional Overviews

Movers & Shakers for October 2015

Percent area
Sept. 29, 2015
Percent area
Oct. 27, 2015
Status Percentage point change

Biggest increases in drought
4.86 11.14 moderate 6.28
Arkansas 42.41 48.68 moderate 6.27
16.89 33.00 severe 16.11
Connecticut 88.01 92.26 moderate 4.25
Illinois 0.00 23.89 moderate 23.89
Indiana 1.38 38.33 moderate 36.95
Iowa 0.00 5.91 moderate 5.91
Kansas 4.48 14.29 moderate 9.81
Kentucky 9.17 12.60 moderate 3.43
Michigan 0.00 18.82 moderate 18.82
Minnesota 0.00 7.07 moderate 7.07
North Dakota
0.00 9.99 moderate 9.99
Tennessee 0.39 5.39 moderate 5.00
Biggest improvements in drought
3.58 0.00 moderate 3.58
Arizona 62.60 50.14 moderate 12.46
Arkansas 4.64 0.00 extreme 4.64
Georgia 17.71 13.83 moderate 3.88
Idaho 85.59 82.14 moderate 3.45
Louisiana 71.14 45.51 moderate 25.63
2.76 severe 42.68
15.22 0.00 extreme 15.22
Maine 9.78 3.45 moderate 6.33
Maryland 30.45 22.58 moderate 7.85
Mississippi 56.71 44.52 moderate 12.19
31.08 1.19 severe 29.89
6.55 0.00 extreme 6.55
 Montana 38.18 34.77 moderate 3.41
New Hampshire
20.42 14.88 moderate 5.54
New Jersey
42.93 17.64 moderate 25.29
North Carolina
17.66 0.00 moderate 17.66
Oklahoma 6.37 2.79 severe 3.58
Puerto Rico
38.44 25.52 severe
14.74 6.53 extreme 8.21
Rhode Island
52.33 15.21 moderate 37.12
South Carolina
31.76 0.00 moderate 31.76
10.91 0.00 severe 10.91
Texas 38.32 15.67 moderate 22.65
17.55 2.85 severe 14.70
6.27 0.00 extreme 6.27
Utah 63.03 55.73 moderate 7.30
Washington 100 90.91 severe


The Northeast region was dry but cool in October. Precipitation departures in portions of southeastern New York, western Massachusetts and Connecticut were 3-4 inches below normal and most of the region was 1-3 inches below normal. Cooler-than-normal temperatures were also common, with most locations 2-3 degrees below normal. The portion of the region in drought shrank to 6.39 percent of the region, compared to 9.00 percent a month earlier.


October was very wet in the Carolinas, Virginia and Tennessee. Most of this area saw up to 4 inches more precipitation than normal, although areas of South Carolina were 8-12 inches above normal. The areas receiving the most rain were cool, while most of the rest of the region was warmer than normal. Temperature departures ranged from 2-3 degrees above normal to the west and 1-2 degrees below normal in the eastern parts of the region. With the abundant rain over drought areas, drought improved from 11.73 to 5.52 percent of the region and all severe drought was eliminated.


Dry and warm weather dominated the Midwest in October. Precipitation was below normal, with only the Ohio Valley seeing above-normal rain. Departures were 1-3 inches below normal. Temperatures were 2-4 degrees above normal, with the greatest departures over the upper Midwest and western portions of the region. Drought expanded in October, with 15.99 percent of the region in drought on Oct. 27, compared to 1.04 percent at the end of September.

High Plains

Precipitation was mixed in the High Plains region, with the eastern portions below normal and the western, above. Departures were 1-3 inches below normal over southeast Nebraska and eastern Kansas and about 1 inch above normal over western Nebraska, western South Dakota, and western North Dakota. Warmer-than-normal temperatures dominated the region, with most areas 2-4 degrees above normal. Drought expanded slightly, with 3.95 percent of the region in drought at the end of the month compared to 0.82 percent at the end of September.


Most of Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi had above-normal precipitation in October, with departures of 2-4 inches above normal quite common, and as much as o 6-8 inches above normal in portions of northeast Texas and the Panhandle of Texas. But most of Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas were 2-4 inches drier than normal for the month. Temperatures were warmer than normal, with departures of 2-4 degrees above normal common throughout the region. Drought improved rapidly, with 23.74 percent of the region in drought as of Oct. 27, compared to 37.43 percent at the end of September. Severe drought improved from 18.31 percent to 5.51 percent of the region, and extreme drought was eliminated.


Much of the West was wet, recording precipitation of 1-2 inches above normal in October. Portions of eastern New Mexico recorded 3-5 inches more than normal rain. It remained dry along the West Coast, with departures of 1-3 inches below normal from the coast of Washington down the coast of northern California. The entire region was above normal for temperatures, with much of the Great Basin and northern Rocky Mountains 6-8 degrees above normal. Drought improved slightly for the areas that recorded the most rain, with 55.42 percent of the region in drought now compared to 57.81 percent in September. Severe drought improved from 42.42 to 41.21 percent, extreme drought improved slightly from 26.50 to 26.23 percent, and exceptional drought remained unchanged.


October 2015 drought impact summary: CA dealt with water conservation, tree and wildlife mortality; Southern states saw burn bans

The graphs above describe what's in the Drought Impact Reporter for October 2015. The pie chart shows that Water Supply and government response were among the most frequently chosen categories of impacts. The bar chart shows that California had the most impacts compared with other states.
Left, California's major reservoirs are below historic averages. Find this chart and other resources on the California Department of Water Resources Water Conditions webpage.
Texas' reservoirs were 81.9% full on Nov. 2, 2015, with a distinct upward turn after heavy rains in late October. See more at Water Data for Texas.

By Denise Gutzmer, NDMC Drought Impact Specialist

The month of October brought drier conditions to the Midwest and rain to the eastern and southern U.S. Dry weather during the fall helped Midwestern farmers harvest crops, but there were also reports of winter wheat suffering from lack of rain. Excessive rainfall in Texas refilled reservoirs, eased drought significantly and caused localized flooding, with several fatalities. Drought kept its grip on California, but many saw potential for drought relief via El Niño and abundant precipitation this winter. Meanwhile, California continued to deal with drought, accruing 42 impacts in the Drought Impact Reporter in October, along with 19 for Texas, 10 for Mississippi and others across the Mississippi Valley.

Most California cities conserving water; LA utility to recoup costs

Water conservation remained an urgent concern in California, with hope for, but no guarantee of, a wet winter this year. Californians continued meeting the governor’s demand for 25 percent water conservation, but some communities, such as Beverly Hills, Indo, Redlands and the Coachella Valley Water District, still fell far short of their individual conservation goals, incurring fines of $61,000 each. Statewide, Californians curbed their water use 26.1 percent in September, compared with 2013 water use.

Along with successful water conservation comes reduced revenue for utilities. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power was about $111 million short on its revenue projection for the fiscal year that ended in summer 2015 because its customers conserved about 10 percent more water than expected. Customers conserved 18 billion gallons, leaving DWP about $57 million in the red. To bring in more money and help cover fixed costs, the Board of Water and Power Commissioners approved a pass-through charge that will cost the average customer about $1.80 per month starting in 2016.

“Beverly Hills water wasters 'should be ashamed,' state regulator says,” by Matt Stevens and Rosanna Xia, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 30, 2015

 “Water bills will creep up next year in L.A. because we've conserved so much,” by Matt Stevens and Alice Walton, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 21, 2015

Land fallowed twice the normal amount in Central Valley

Persistent drought in California caused farmers to fallow 1.03 million acres of land in the Central Valley, amounting to about 15 percent of the 7 million acres of irrigated farmland there, according to a study undertaken by NASA, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Geological Survey and the California Department of Water Resources. That was more than double the idle acreage in 2011, the most recent non-drought year. The biggest increases in idle acreage were seen along the west side of the San Joaquin Valley in Fresno, Kings and Kern counties.

“Central Valley idle farmland doubling during drought,” Central Valley Business Times (Stockton, Calif.), Oct. 26, 2015

California tree damage prompts state of emergency

Years of drought have damaged and killed millions of California’s trees statewide and intensified a bark beetle infestation, leading Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency. He asked the federal government to assist with the safe removal of dead and dying trees, estimated by the U.S. Forest Service to number more than 22 million. As many as 20 percent of the state’s forests, or about 120 million trees, could die from drought stress, according to a biologist from the Carnegie Institution for Science.

“Beverly Hills water wasters 'should be ashamed,' state regulator says,” by Matt Stevens and Rosanna Xia, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 30, 2015

 “X-ray technology reveals California's forests are in for a radical transformation,” by Thomas Curwen, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 20, 2015

Salmon mortality up due to warm water, but drought-tolerant milkweed helping monarchs

Ninety-five percent of the winter-run chinook eggs, hatchlings and juvenile salmon in the Sacramento River perished this year, as in 2014, due to the warm, drought-depleted Sacramento River, announced the National Marine Fisheries Service. The fish would typically return in three years to spawn, but with two consecutive years’ worth of salmon dying, this wild run could be nearly extinct and will require careful monitoring and protection in 2016.

Monarch butterflies, on the other hand, have benefited from California homeowners turning to drought-tolerant plants in their yards. Milkweed, one of the new favorites, is the only type of plant female monarch butterflies will lay eggs on, so monarchs may see greater reproductive success. A nursery owner in San Diego sold more than 14,000 milkweed plants this season alone.

“Drought-driven salmon deaths could have far-reaching impact,” by Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 29, 2015

 “Monarchs get help from unlikely source: California's drought,” by Gillian Flaccus, Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle (, Oct. 21, 2015

Drought in Texas through October led to fires

Much of northern, central and eastern Texas slipped back into drought after rain ended in early July. Many counties adopted burn bans to reduce the chances of additional wildfires as small blazes sprang up. In Bastrop County, the Hidden Pines fire burned at least 4,582 acres and destroyed 64 homes, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

Rainfall during the latter part of October significantly eased the drought and even led to flooding. Some areas received more than 20 inches of rain in two days.

“Report could soon detail start of Hidden Pines Fire,” by Kevin Schwaller, KXAN, Oct. 26, 2015

“Heavy rains this month lessen drought in Texas,” by Betsy Blaney, Associated Press, El Paso Times (Texas), Oct. 29, 2015

High prices for beef make cattle attractive to Texas thieves through drought years

Cattle theft remained a problem in Texas, particularly as drought has driven cattle prices up in recent years. Although the absolute number of livestock stolen has decreased since 2011, the value has increased, as producers sell animals due to drought and the resulting scarcity drives prices up. Prices for livestock were at record highs in 2014 when there were 726 cases of stolen livestock, involving 5,325 animals valued at $4.89 million, an uptick of more than $800,000 from 2011.

“Cattle Theft Still a Modern-Day Problem in Texas,” by Julián Aguilar and Miles Hutson, The Texas Tribune, (Austin), Oct. 28, 2015

Lower Mississippi Valley authorities impose fire restrictions

October was largely dry in the Lower Mississippi Valley. Many counties in Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas enacted burn bans to keep the public from inadvertently sparking more fires. At mid-month, the Louisiana state fire marshal and agriculture and forestry commissioner announced a statewide burn ban as an outbreak of wildfires in the region continued. The governor of Mississippi followed suit on Oct. 20, banning outdoor burning. Heavy rainfall in the latter part of the month eased dry conditions.

“Bone dry and windy, 32 counties ban fires,” by Kenneth Heard, Arkansas Online (Little Rock), Oct. 4, 2015

“Burn ban list continues to grow,” by Mel Carlock, (Tupelo, Miss.), Oct. 16, 2015

“Citing extreme dry conditions, Louisiana officials order statewide burn ban beginning Friday,” The Acadiana Advocate (La.),Oct. 15, 2015

“Drought Sparks Wildfires In Ark-La-Tex,” News Radio 710 KEEL (Shreveport, La.), Oct. 14, 2015

“Forestry firefighting crews keeping busy during drought,” by Steve Phillips, WLOX (Biloxi, Miss.), Oct. 22, 2015

"Governor Bryant Lifts Statewide Burn Ban," newsms (Jackson, Miss.), Oct. 26, 2015

“Rain could be welcome sight for drought-stricken counties,” by Cindy Horswell, Houston Chronicle, Oct. 17, 2015


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