Winter storms brought much-needed rain and snow that eased drought in many areas, notably the Southeast, and prevented drought from getting worse in the Plains, but drought expanded in parts of New Mexico and Texas in the last week of 2012, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The area of the entire United States shown in moderate drought or worse on the Jan. 1, 2013, U.S. Drought Monitor declined slightly to 51.44 percent. The areas in severe or extreme drought or worse also shrank incrementally. But the area in the worst category of drought, exceptional, increased fractionally to 5.64 percent of the country.
Drought Monitor authors synthesize many drought indicators into a single map that identifies areas of the country that are abnormally dry (D0), in moderate drought (D1), in severe drought (D2), extreme drought (D3) and exceptional drought (D4).
The U.S. Drought Monitor map is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and about 350 drought observers across the country. It is released each Thursday based on data through the previous Tuesday morning.
Statistics for the percent area in each category of drought are automatically added to the U.S. Drought Monitor website each week for the entire country and Puerto Rico, for the 48 contiguous states, for each climate region, and for individual states: http://drought.unl.edu/MonitoringTools/USDroughtMonitor/DroughtMonitorTips.aspx
The National Climatic Data Center maintains drought data based on the Palmer Drought Severity Index, calculated to the beginning of the historic record. The percent area of the U.S. in moderate to extreme drought since 1895 is online: http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/sotc/drought/2012/11/uspctarea-wetdry-mod.txt
U.S. Drought Monitor map, statistics and narrative summary: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu
National Climatic Data Center’s State of the Climate Drought Summary: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/drought/
Seasonal Drought Outlook: http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/expert_assessment/seasonal_drought.html
U.S. Department of Agriculture’s running tally of farm and food impacts from the Drought of 2012: http://www.ers.usda.gov/newsroom/us-drought-2012-farm-and-food-impacts.aspx
-- Kelly Helm Smith, National Drought Mitigation Center