National Drought Mitigation Center


Moderate drought expands in Northwest and South but Southwest sees some relief

July 25, 2013

Moderate drought expanded slightly in the week that ended July 23, 2013, but some of the hardest-hit areas in the Southwest benefited from monsoon rains, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. 

The map shows 46.55 percent of the lower 48 states in moderate drought or worse, an increase from 46.13 percent a week earlier. But the areas in severe, extreme and exceptional drought all decreased incrementally.

Moderate drought expanded in Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, Idaho, Montana and Alaska, and severe drought expanded in southwestern Arkansas and was introduced in Alaska. Extreme drought also expanded in western Wyoming. A small area of exceptional drought expanded in western Kansas.

“For the first time in nearly a month, drought appeared (in west-central Mississippi) east of the Mississippi River,” said Brad Rippey, meteorologist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Chief Economist.  “Overall U.S. drought coverage increased 0.42 percentage points in the last week to 46.55 percent. Drought coverage has increased 2.71 points in the last 4 weeks, but is 18.90 points below the peak coverage in late-September 2012.”

This week’s U.S. Drought Monitor author, Richard Heim, said drying soils in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming and wildfires in the Northwest were behind the expansion of moderate drought in those areas. “This week began with only four large wildfires burning in the Northwest, but it ended with firefighters battling over a dozen,” he said in narrative accompanying the map.

Rippey said that hay in drought (36 percent) increased for the third consecutive week, while cattle in drought was unchanged at 48 percent. Two-percentage-point increases were noted for corn in drought (19 percent) and soybeans in drought (11 percent).  Winter wheat, three-quarters harvested nationally by July 21, had 49 percent of its production area in drought.

In the West, rains eased drought in Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado, although Heim cautioned that “the drought is far from over in the Southwest,” noting dry topsoil and poor range conditions in several western states. 

Rains also brought improvement to drought in parts of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

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