Thursday, April 26, 2018

National Drought Mitigation Center

September 2013 Drought and Impact Summary

Southwestern, central states see improvement while Midwest dries out

  The Sept. 3 U.S. Drought Monitor map showed 50.09 percent of the contiguous United States in drought, including almost 10 percent in exceptional drought.  
  New Mexico got relief from all exceptional drought and nearly all extreme drought during September. By the end of September, just 3.39 percent of the state was in extreme drought, the least since March 2011.
This experimental change map from the National Drought Mitigation Center clearly shows drought easing in the Southwest but intensifying in the Midwest in the two months that ended Sept. 24. 
  By Sept. 24, less than 1 percent of the contiguous United States was in exceptional drought, and only 4.33 percent was in extreme to exceptional drought. 
  The October Drought Outlook from the Climate Prediction Center anticipates improvement in the Upper Midwest, in and around Louisiana, and in parts of the Northwest.

By Brian Fuchs, NDMC Climatologist

Long-term drought in the Plains and Southwest improved in September. The month began with 50.09 percent of the contiguous United States in drought including almost 10 percent (9.86) in extreme to exceptional drought. The month ended with 45.46 percent of the country in drought and only 4.33 percent in extreme to exceptional drought. This is in stark comparison to the end of September 2012, when drought peaked with more than 65 percent of the country in drought and 21 percent in extreme to exceptional drought.

Much of the western United States recorded precipitation that was well above normal for the month, with many areas seeing more than 200 percent of normal. The monsoon season remained quite active into September for much of the Southwest and further north into the Great Basin and Rocky Mountains. Destructive floods were problematic during the month as areas of Colorado experienced a year’s worth of precipitation in a few days. Cleanup of the widespread destruction continues.

A few areas remained dry. One location that did not see much precipitation was in the Central Valley of California and southern portions of that state. Areas in the eastern half of the United States were generally dry although some areas of the South and the Ohio River Valley recorded normal to slightly above-normal rains. The Midwestern drought that emerged in August, as a relatively cool summer heated up, intensified in September, with above-normal temperatures continuing through much of the month.

A few months ago there was concern about what an early frost would mean for crops, but the heat led to rapid crop development in September and now we are seeing damage due to drought. Some producers were saying they were experiencing “die down” instead of the typical “dry down” they expect this time of year. In a typical year, the row crops reach maturity and stop growing and taking in water, and the plant slowly transforms from green to dead, with the grain drying as part of this process. In places this year, the plants were still viable and growing but died abruptly due to the heat and lack of moisture, which is very atypical. 


The Midwestern drought did not expand much during September, but it intensified with the heat and dryness. The area in moderate drought or worse increased to 30.18 percent of the region at month’s end, from 28.71 percent at the beginning of the month. The area in severe drought increased from 6.95 percent to 11.37 percent, with maturing crops bearing the brunt of the impacts. Soybeans were especially vulnerable this year. Late planting and a dry September left many plants showing reduced yield. Most of the region was dry, with only potions of western Indiana and Ohio and western Minnesota picking up above-normal precipitation. Most of the region had precipitation of 2-4 inches below normal for the month. Temperatures were 4-6 degrees Fahrenheit above normal in the western portions of the region and slightly below normal in Ohio and Michigan.

High Plains

Drought in the High Plains improved quite a bit in September, especially in Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska. The month started with 63.14 percent of the region in drought and ended at 49.92 percent. Historical flooding rains swept across portions of Colorado and sent floodwater down the South Platte River into the main stem Platte River, which caused lowland flooding. Outside eastern Nebraska, South Dakota and Kansas, the entire High Plains had precipitation that was several inches above normal for September. The entire region saw above-normal temperatures for the month, as much as 6-8 degrees Fahrenheit above normal in areas of the northern High Plains.

Movers & Shakers for September 2013

State  Percent area
Sept. 3, 2013
Percent  area Sept. 24, 2013

Biggest Increases in Drought

Iowa  63.24  78.53
Illinois  2.12 14.95  severe
Mississippi  23.11 30.56  moderate
Wisconsin  6.51 16.96  severe 

Biggest Improvements in Drought


 93.75 40.26  moderate
 21.67 4.01 
Nebraska  26.19  11.04  extreme
Wyoming  47.95  30.31  moderate
 New Mexico  96.96  74.92  moderate
 77.62  37.71   severe 
 45.00  3.39   extreme 
 8.55  0.00   exceptional 
 Arizona  76.23  61.91   moderate 
 15.55  0.00   extreme 
 Utah  53.81  17.52   severe 


The South had slight improvements to the drought during September with 57.61 percent in drought at the end of the month compared to 60.57 percent at the beginning of the month. Drought intensity improved. The area in severe drought decreased from 42.02 to 32.18 percent and the area in extreme drought improved from 10.78 to 4.82 percent. Areas of central and east Texas as well as the Oklahoma Panhandle recorded precipitation of 2-4 inches above normal while other areas were not as fortunate. Central Oklahoma and northern Arkansas had precipitation deficits of 2-4 inches for the month. Temperatures that were 3-5 degrees above normal affected the region and prevented further improvements.


Overall improvements to drought, especially over the Rocky Mountains and the Southwest, were significant during September. The proportion of the western states in drought improved to 65.30 percent at the end of the month from 76.15 percent at the beginning. Intensity eased significantly, with the area in severe drought decreasing from 55.28 to 38.58 percent during the month. September 24 was the first time since March 2012 that Arizona did not have any extreme or exceptional drought. In New Mexico, September 17 was the first time in over a year that there was no exceptional drought in the state. Most areas had temperatures of 2-4 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.


Drought conditions are likely to persist with some improvements possible over Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, portions of Idaho and Montana, and parts of the upper Midwest. Most of the drought in Alaska should improve along with areas of northern California and coastal southern Oregon. Precipitation is likely to be below normal over the central United States and the Four Corners region during the month. There is an above-normal chance of above-normal precipitation along the Gulf Coast and the Tennessee River Valley, as well as along the Alaskan coast and the Pacific Northwest.  Temperatures are expected to stay above normal over much of the southwestern United States and over much of the Midwest and New England during October. 



These maps from the Midwest Regional Climate Center show first freeze dates so far this year (left) and typical freeze dates based on the 1981-2010 average.

This U.S. Department of Agriculture map compares where corn was grown for grain in 2011 with the location of ethanol plants in 2012, pre-drought.

This map from the USDA's Farm Service Agency shows counties approved for emergency haying and grazing as of Sept. 9, 2013.

This USDA FSA map shows counties eligible for emergency assistance due to drought through Sept. 11, 2013.
This map from the Texas Water Development Board's Water Data for Texas website shows how full reservoirs were as of Oct. 2, 2013. Click on the map for an expanded view with more statistical detail.
This time series shows the effects of three dry years on Texas reservoir storage. The line for 2013 is a new minimum. Also from Water Data for Texas.
The Drought Impact Reporter for September 2013 shows impacts concentrated in the central, Midwestern and western states.
Of the 115 impacts recorded for September 2013, nearly a quarter were in the Agriculture category. Water Supply & Quality, Plants & Wildlife and government Response accounted for most of the rest.

Midwestern drought expanded in September; monsoon rains brought flooding, drought relief to parts of Southwest

By Denise Gutzmer, Drought Impact Specialist

Crop yields in the Midwest are expected to be better in 2013 than in 2012, but a late-developing drought raised anxiety over crops. Midwestern farmers were hoping for better yields in 2013 after intense flash drought in 2012 cut yields and production, leaving farmers with little grain to sell and grain buyers paying high prices for the small crop.


Corn, soybean crop yields look better for 2013

Crops in the Midwest suffered heat and drought in September after a late planting due to a cool, wet spring that brought rain and flooding to parts of the region. The U.S. Department of Agriculture adjusted its corn and soybean production estimates from August to September by a small margin, boosting the corn production estimate 0.6 percent to 13.8 billion bushels.  Production in parts of the Corn Belt less affected by drought was expected to compensate for the more drought-stricken areas. The soybean production estimate slipped 3 percent to 3.15 billion bushels. Since wet fields forced some farmers to plant late, many farmers need a late freeze to allow crops to mature as fully as they can. The 2013 crop production estimates are an improvement over 2012, when drought dropped corn production from an early-season estimate of 14.8 billion bushels to 10.78 billion bushels and soybean production fell to 3.01 billion bushels.[1]

Soy processors awaiting crops

Soy processors in the Midwest awaited the new soybean crop after the late-planted soybeans were slow to mature. In the meantime, two Cargill Inc. plants in Kansas City, Missouri, and Wichita, Kansas, and an Archer Daniels Midland plant in Deerfield, Missouri, closed until more soybeans become available. The Kansas City plant was closed Sept. 19-22, and the Wichita and Deerfield plants remain idled. A Bunge Ltd. soy processing plant in Emporia, Kansas, that closed in the spring was expected to reopen in October when the newly harvested soybeans were ready to crush.[2]

Ethanol industry profitable in 2013, but 20 plants still idled from 2012

Twenty ethanol plants in the U.S. have remained closed since late 2012 or early 2013 because corn was expensive and in short supply after the intense drought in 2012. But most of the 45 ethanol plants in operation in the U.S. turned a profit in the last quarter, according to a survey done by Christianson & Associates of Willmar, Minnesota. The outlook for a record corn crop brought corn prices down 36 percent from the start of 2013, putting corn futures on the Chicago Board of Trade at $4.45 per bushel on Sept. 30.[3]


September feedlot inventory down

Livestock producers have been culling cattle for years as drought reduces grass and hay growth and dries up water sources. The feedlot inventory on Sept. 1 was 9.88 million, the lowest since 2003, and 7 percent lower than September 2012. The August feedlot placement total was 1.79 million, which was 11 percent lower than last year. The weight group seeing the biggest decrease in placements was animals weighing less than 700 pounds. Feedlot placements are an indicator of the beef supply in coming months, after cattle are fattened for slaughter.[4]

Texas ranchers postpone restocking

Ongoing drought in Texas kept water supplies low and rangeland and pastures in poor shape, preventing ranchers from restocking. In January, ranchers expressed intentions to increase the number of female cattle on their ranches, but the dry summer changed their minds. An agricultural economist at Texas A&M, said, “The drought is going to get some producers to sell those calves earlier to prevent further damage to pastures. This dry pattern limits what cattle producers can do relative to what they planned to do."[5]

Energy & Water Supply

Water releases, hydropower production curtailed in the Upper Missouri River Basin

Ongoing drought in the northern Great Plains prompted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to minimize water releases from Gavins Point Dam on the Missouri River. From December 2013 through February 2014, water releases will average nearly 12,000 cubic feet per second, compared to normal winter releases of about 17,000 cfs or more. Hydropower production at the six main stem power plants on the upper Missouri River has been low in 2013. Normal power production is 10 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, but is projected to be just 7.6 billion kilowatt hours this year.[6]

Hydropower production in the Colorado River Basin reduced

Drought has lessened the flow through the Colorado River Basin, limiting hydropower generation at dams in the Southwest. At Hoover Dam, five new wide-head turbines were being installed to keep the power plant functioning as water levels decline in Lake Mead. Full capacity power production at Hoover Dam is 2,074 megawatts, but low water levels diminished production to 1,735 MW in August for a decline of just over 8 percent. Power production at Glen Canyon Dam in 2014 is also expected to be down by 8 percent. With the Colorado River providing less water, resulting in reduced hydropower production, the Western Area Power Administration will likely pay an estimated $10 million to purchase power supplies in 2014.[7]

Southern Nevada Water Authority fast-tracks project to lower intake pipes

The Southern Nevada Water Authority approved a project to prolong the life of the oldest and shallowest of two intake pipes and pumping stations that are used to draw about 90 percent of its drinking water supply from the reservoir. Authority officials declared this project to be an emergency in early September because the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced in August that the inflow to Lake Mead in 2014 will be the smallest annual water delivery in the lake’s history.[8]


Texas agencies seeking drought pics

The Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas Water Development Board and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department invite the public to post their personal drought photos on social media sites, such as Twitter and Flickr, using the hashtag #txdrought, and Instagram at texasdrought, through Oct. 31. The agencies have been pleased with the pictures posted so far, showing drought’s effects on people’s daily lives, including dry creek beds, native vegetation and innovative water conservation measures.[9] See photos. 

West Texas reservoirs set historic lows

As many of the Texas drought photos reveal, reservoir storage was below historical lows for much of 2013, reducing municipal and irrigation water supplies, limiting recreational opportunities and harming fish and wildlife. The Texas Water Development Board’s Water Data for Texas website showed that monitored water supply reservoirs were at 60.2 percent of capacity on Oct. 2. Reservoirs in eastern Texas were generally fuller than western Texas reservoirs, some of which were as low as 0.8 percent of capacity.[10]

Drought closes two restaurants on Lake Travis near Austin, Texas

Two restaurants on Lake Travis northwest of Austin closed in September because low water levels cut into business, forcing them to close their doors. Years of drought and the very low level of Lake Travis finally forced Carlos' n Charlie's, a popular restaurant on the lake since 1995, to close permanently on Labor Day. The Gnarly Gar, a floating restaurant on Lake Travis, announced that its last day of business would be Sept. 29, due to the low level of the lake, although the owner said it could reopen if conditions improve. At the end of September, Lake Travis was about 43 feet below average, giving patrons a walk of nearly 1,000 feet from the parking lot to the restaurant.[11]

New Mexico

Southwestern monsoon season brings relief

Parts of Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona and neighboring states received some precipitation that led to heavy flooding. Elephant Butte and Caballo lakes on the Rio Grande River in New Mexico filled by nearly 30,000 acre-feet through Sept. 17, bringing storage in those reservoirs to 6 and 17 percent of capacity, up from 3 and 2 percent of capacity.[12] Storage in reservoirs fed by the Pecos River in eastern New Mexico swelled from 11 percent of capacity to 92 percent. The Carlsbad Irrigation District had enough water to release some to Texas.[13]


California water department prepares small systems for drought

The California Department of Water Resources began a series of drought preparedness workshops on Sept. 24 for small water systems, as 2014 could be the third dry year in a row. An official noted that smaller systems may lack resources to perform even basic functions such as monitoring groundwater levels and maintaining wells.[14]

San Joaquin County: Drought slows pasture growth

Little precipitation fell in San Joaquin County after December 2012 and did not provide enough moisture for grass production. The past two consecutive seasons of below-normal rainfall hindered pasture recovery.[15]

Ventura County: Ranchers selling livestock

Drought eliminated about 95 percent of the grass used for grazing in Ventura County just northwest of Los Angeles, forcing ranchers to sell livestock.[16]

San Luis Obispo County: Wells drying up

Dozens of wells have dried up in the northern part of San Luis Obispo County, frustrating residents who blame vineyards’ water use for the dry wells. The water level in parts of the county fell by at least 70 feet since 1997, due to drought and growing agricultural and urban demand.[17]

Sonoma County: Food and water scarce for wildlife

A retired wildlife biologist in Sonoma County noticed that frogs and turtles in streams were concentrated around a few bedrock pools, which increases their vulnerability to predators. Herbivores were stressed because nutritious green feed was scarce. Trees such as buckeyes and blue oaks, which in California are adapted to dry summers, have already shown fall color and leaf drop, about a month or two early.[18]

Rim Fire

As of Oct. 3, the Rim Fire was 92 percent contained and had burned a total of 257,135 acres or 402 square miles in and near the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park and cost $126.7 million to fight since it began on August 17.[19]


1 “Soybean Prices Jump After USDA Cuts Output forecast; Corn Falls,” by Tony C. Dreibus and Eric Morath, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 12, 2013. “Crop Production Down in 2012 Due to Drought,” USDA Reports, Jan 11, 2013.

2 "Slow start to U.S. soy harvest idles Midwest processors,” by Julie Ingwersen and Michael Hirtzer, Reuters, Sept. 26, 2013.

3Easing corn prices give relief to the ethanol industry,” by David Shaffer, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Sept. 28, 2013.
Corn Slumps to 3-Year Low on Rising Inventory,” Bloomberg, AgWeb, Sept. 30, 2013.

4Lack of cattle catches up with beef industry,” by Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension, Drovers Cattle Network, Sept. 23, 2013.

5Record-Low Texas Water Reservoirs May Halt Cattle-Herd Expansion,” by Jeff Wilson, Washington Post, Sept. 10, 2013.

6Gavins Point Dam releases again set lower,” by David Hendee, Omaha World-Herald, Sept. 8, 2013.

7Colorado River Hydropower Faces a Dry Future,” by Katherine Tweed, IEEE Spectrum (New York), Sept. 19, 2013.

8Officials OK emergency tunneling project at Lake Mead,” by Henry Brean, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Sept. 26, 2013.

9Coalition of State Agencies extends drought photo campaign,” Horseback Magazine, Oct. 1, 2013.

10 Water Data for Texas, from the Texas Water Development Board

11Low lake levels lead to Carlos’ n Charlie’s closure,” by Sarah Drake, Austin Business Journal, Aug. 20, 2013.
Drought claims another lakeside business,” by Eric Janzen, KXAN, Austin, Texas, Sept. 24, 2013.

12Rainfall boosts water levels at Elephant Butte, Caballo lakes,” by Diana Alba Soular, El Paso Times, Sept. 17, 2013.

13Recent storms make dent in N.M. drought,” by Russell Contreras, Associated Press, Durango Herald, Sept. 25, 2013.

14State urges steps to prepare for drought in 2014,” by Matt Weiser, Sacramento Bee, Sept. 6, 2013.

15 "Drought disaster declared in S.J., elsewhere," by Reed Fujii, San Joaquin Record, Aug. 31, 2013. 

16Drought causes heavy losses for county cattle ranchers,” by Carol Lawrence, Ventura County Star, Sept. 5, 2013.

17In Paso Robles, vineyards' thirst pits growers against residents,” by David Pierson, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 1, 2013.

18 "Sonoma County, California, little vegetation for wildlife," CoCoRaHS Report from Station #Geyserville 10.6 WNW, Aug. 25, 2013

19 "Rim Fire," InciWeb Incident Fire Information System



















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