Lincoln, Neb. – The area of the contiguous United States in moderate drought or worse fell below 50 percent for the first time since June 19, 2012, according to the April 16 U.S. Drought Monitor.
Heavy precipitation across much of the Plains and the upper Midwest continued to ease drought, while Texas and Arizona remain dry. The area of the lower 48 states in moderate drought or worse declined to 47.82 percent from 50.82 percent the week before.
"We've been on a steady but slow recovery path from drought since the peak in September 2012," said Mark Svoboda, one of the founding authors of the U.S. Drought Monitor. "We've seen a much more active weather pattern lately across the midsection of the country, which has been eroding the intensity of drought as we head into spring. This is exactly what we needed."
Svoboda, the head of the Monitoring Program area at the National Drought Mitigation Center, based at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, added, "We need to see continued improvement before the hot, dry season sets in. The cooler temperatures are also helping the cause."
In the Midwest, heavy rains soaked into thawing soils and reduced drought in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri, observed this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor author, David Miskus, in narrative accompanying the map. The area of the Midwest in moderate drought or worse declined to 20.94 percent from 32.24 percent the preceding week, according to statistics released with the map. The narrative cited Iowa State Climatologist Harry Hillaker, who noted that this was the wettest week in Iowa since June 2010, with statewide average precipitation at 2.9 inches, compared with the normal of .78 inches.
In the Plains, drought receded in eastern Oklahoma, eastern Kansas, extreme eastern Nebraska and the Nebraska Panhandle, and throughout most of the Dakotas. An area of exceptional drought, the worst category of drought, was eliminated from South Dakota.
Heavy rains also improved conditions in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida.
Unfortunately, decent precipitation eluded Texas and Arizona, which were among the few areas where drought got worse.
U.S. 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. Miskus is with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
The map 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. U.S. Drought Monitor data online goes back to January 2000.
U.S. Drought Monitor map, statistics and narrative summary: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu
USDA’s weekly “Agriculture in Drought” analysis: http://www.usda.gov/oce/weather/Drought/AgInDrought.pdf
National Climatic Data Center’s State of the Climate Drought Summary:
Seasonal Drought Outlook:
-- Kelly Helm Smith, National Drought Mitigation Center