National Drought Mitigation Center


Drought expands as rains bring patchy relief to worst areas

July 18, 2013

Drought expanded over the United States in the week that ended July 16, 2013, although much-needed rains brought improvements to some of the hardest-hit areas, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor map and narrative released today.

“Drought is on the move again,” said Brad Rippey, a meteorologist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Chief Economist. For the 48 contiguous states, “U.S. drought coverage increased 1.28 percent in the last week to 46.13 percent. This represents the greatest U.S. drought coverage since May 14. However, coverage is still down 14.96 percentage points since the beginning of 2013 and down 19.32 points from the record high of 65.45 percent on September 25, 2012.” These statistics include areas in moderate (D1) or worse drought.

Rippey also noted that “in the last five weeks, worsening drought—mainly in the Far West and Intermountain West—has led to a nearly six-point increase in the national coverage of severe to exceptional drought (D2 to D4) coverage—from 28.44 to 34.28 percent.”

The area in severe drought this week is an increase from last week’s 33.61 percent, but the area in extreme drought or worse decreased to 13.34 percent from 13.84 percent a week earlier, according to statistics released with the map.

Monsoon rains brought short-term relief to some of the worst areas, slightly easing the intensity of drought in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado. This week’s U.S. Drought Monitor author, Richard Heim, noted that in extreme southeast Arizona, “heavy rains this week gave Douglas an all-time monthly precipitation record for any month of 7.85 inches of rain so far this July.”

Arkansas showed rapid deterioration, with 46.98 percent of the state in moderate drought now, an increase from 18.22 percent a week earlier, and 7.04 percent in severe drought, where there was none a week earlier. Drought expanded slightly in Kansas and also intensified in western Nebraska. South Dakota had a net expansion of drought.

Farther west, in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Nevada and California, drought expanded and intensified. Most of the changes were small, but Idaho had a jump in severe drought, to 43.09 percent of the state from 17.51 percent a week earlier.

Texas had a small increase in the total area in moderate drought or worse, to 94.38 percent, but decreases in the other categories of drought. Oklahoma likewise had an expansion of the total area in moderate drought or worse, to 59.05 percent of the state, but with reductions in intensity.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture tracks the effects of drought on various crops week by week. “Hay in drought (35 percent) and cattle in drought (48 percent) increased for the second consecutive week,” Rippey said. “Winter wheat, two-thirds harvested by July 14, was unchanged, with 48 percent of the production area in drought. Corn in drought remained unchanged at 17 percent for the fourth consecutive week, while soybeans in drought crept up to 9 percent, following three weeks at 8 percent.”  

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 map is released each Thursday based on data through the previous Tuesday morning.

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. Heim is with NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

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:

Drought Impact Reporter:

USDA’s weekly “Agriculture in Drought” analysis:

National Climatic Data Center’s State of the Climate Drought Summary:

U.S. Monthly Drought Outlook:

U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook:

-- Kelly Helm Smith, National Drought Mitigation Center