The footprint of drought on the U.S. Drought Monitor map shifted south and west during the week that ended April 30, intensifying in southeast Colorado, New Mexico and other spots.
Statistics released with the map showed a decrease in the overall area of the 48 contiguous states in moderate drought or worse, to 46.90 percent, from 47.34 percent the week before, but some areas intensified. The area in severe drought or worse increased, to 32.73 percent, from 31.75 percent; the area in extreme drought or worse decreased to 13.96 percent, from 14.72 percent; and the area in exceptional drought increased to 3.4 percent from 2.59 percent.
“Drought coverage is now down 14.19 percentage points since the beginning of 2013 and down 18.55 points from the record high of 65.45 percent on September 25, 2012,” said Brad Rippey, a meteorologist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Chief Economist. “However, there is an increasingly sharp gradient between drought and non-drought areas; currently that line stretches roughly from the Texas-Louisiana border to Lake Superior, with drought to the west of that demarcation zone.”
Drought receded or eased in areas of Georgia, North Carolina, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wyoming, South Dakota, northeastern Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and south Texas. North Carolina is now completely free of moderate drought or worse, for the first time since November 2012.
Drought intensified in southeast Colorado, western Kansas, Texas’ Big Bend and Panhandle, New Mexico and Arizona. Most of the increase in exceptional drought was in New Mexico, where the area in exceptional drought increased to 24.89 percent from 4.36 percent.
Blowing dust in southeast Colorado in April that closed Interstate 75 also blanketed agricultural lands with dust and sand, as reported by a Denver TV station and other drought observers. These are documented in the Drought Impact Reporter. See impacts:
More than half (54 percent) of the U.S. winter wheat remains in a drought area, unchanged from last week, Rippey said. Other commodities had one- to two-point decreases in the area in drought, including cattle (54 percent), hay (41 percent), corn (39 percent), and soybeans (31 percent). At the height of the drought in summer 2012, peak coverage included 76 percent of cattle, 69 percent of hay, 89 percent of corn, and 88 percent of soybeans.
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. This week’s author was Eric Luebehusen, a meteorologist in the USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist.
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