National Drought Mitigation Center


Drought recedes in Plains and Southwest, expands in West

August 8, 2013

Drought continued to recede in many areas that have been plagued by long-term drought, but expanded in the far west during the week that ended August 6, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The map showed 45.49 percent of the lower 48 states in moderate drought or worse, down fractionally from 45.64 percent a week ago, and nearly 20 percentage points lower than the peak coverage of 65.45 percent on Sept. 25, 2012. All categories of drought declined, with the largest decrease in exceptional drought, the worst category.

“Recent heavy rain has taken a bite out of exceptional drought (D4) across the central Plains and the Southwest, reducing the nation’s D4 coverage to 2.77,” said Brad Rippey, a meteorologist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Chief Economist. “That is down nearly one-half percentage point (0.40) from a week ago, and represents the nation’s smallest D4 area since April 23. In the last week, D4 coverage fell from 25 to 21 percent in New Mexico, from 15 to 8 percent in Colorado, and from 4 to 1 percent in Nebraska.”

The heavy rains brought improvement to the Plains states of Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. Some counties in Kansas reported more than five inches of rain for the week, noted this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor author, Brian Fuchs. But areas of moderate drought appeared in North Dakota and Iowa.  

To the west, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona all showed improvements, but drought intensified and expanded in Nevada, Idaho and eastern Oregon. 

States that saw drought improve in some areas but worsen in others included Arkansas, Texas and Missouri.

“The portion of the U.S. corn production area in drought has been edging upward in recent weeks, from 17 to 22 percent between July 9 and August 6,” Rippey said. “The increase has been largely due to resurgent drought in the western Corn Belt, including northern Missouri, eastern Nebraska, and western Iowa. Soybeans in drought have also increased in the last four weeks, from 8 to 14 percent. Hay (34 percent) and cattle in drought (47 percent) were both unchanged from last week.”

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 USDA, and about 350 drought observers across the country. Fuchs is with the National Drought Mitigation 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