National Drought Mitigation Center


Drought recedes in central states, holds on in West

October 17, 2013

After a wet week across much of the central and eastern United States, drought receded to its smallest spatial extent since May 2012 on the Oct. 15 U.S. Drought Monitor. Drought in the western states was mostly unchanged.

The map shows just 36.71 percent of the contiguous United States in moderate drought or worse, compared with 38.59 percent a week earlier. The last time drought coverage was this low was May 29, 2012, at 37.37 percent.

Drought eased incrementally across the Midwest, Great Plains and South, including parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. Colorado and Wyoming also had areas of improvement.

An exception to the general improvement was a small area in central Arkansas that got worse.

Drought was unchanged in several western states. “So far this year, less than half of normal precipitation has been reported in the southwestern half of Nevada and all but the southern and northern extremes of California, along with isolated sections of the Intermountain West,” said Rich Tinker, this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor author, in narrative accompanying the map. “Only about 25 percent of normal has been reported for the last 9 ½ months in much of central and western California.”

Mark Svoboda, leader of the Monitoring Program Area at the National Drought Mitigation Center, cautioned that local conditions and impacts can and do vary from the big-picture U.S. Drought Monitor map. For example, highly managed water systems protect most California residents from the immediate effects of drought, but ranchers are generally outside the state’s managed water systems, as are some small rural water suppliers. And while meteorological drought is improving in Texas, some municipalities are dealing with serious water shortages because three years of drought have left reservoirs depleted. Cattle herds in Texas and elsewhere sold due to drought take years to rebuild.

“This illustrates the lag between the physical nature of drought and its impacts, both coming into and going out of drought,” Svoboda said.

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. Tinker is with NOAA’s Climate Prediction 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:                                                              

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