National Drought Mitigation Center


Precipitation chipping away at drought in Plains and Midwest

November 7, 2013

Drought in the United States showed net improvement in the week that ended Nov. 5, but a small area on the Texas-Oklahoma border got worse, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor map. 

“Widespread precipitation continued to chip away at drought across the Great Plains and Midwest,” said Brad Rippey, meteorologist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Chief Economist. “Nearly all of the remaining U.S. drought is considered to be long-term in nature, or a combination of long- and short-term effects. Only in the Northeast is drought considered to be a short-term feature, as precipitation deficits have developed over the last couple of months.”

The portion of the contiguous 48 states in moderate drought or worse declined to 32.24 percent from 34.7 percent a week earlier, and the area in severe drought showed a similar small decline. But the area in extreme drought or worse increased to 2.93 percent from 2.82 percent and the area in exceptional drought increased to 0.34 percent from 0.3 percent.

Based on the definitions of drought employed in the production the U.S. Drought Monitor, historical U.S. drought coverage should average near 20 percent, Rippey said. The last time contiguous U.S. drought coverage was below 20 percent was December 14, 2010. Some areas are still recovering from drought that started in 2012 or earlier. Drought coverage peaked on Sept. 25, 2012, at 65.45 percent of the contiguous states.

Torrential rains erased drought from much of eastern Texas. Austin had its wettest October on record, with 13.28 inches of precipitation, said David Simeral, this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor author, in narrative accompanying the map.

Other states with improvements were Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado. The Big Island of Hawaii also registered improvement.

States with areas that got worse were Texas, Oklahoma, and the Hawaiian islands of Oahu and Maui.

Drought was essentially unchanged in California, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, in the Northeast, and in Alaska.

On Nov. 3, the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service reported that 73 percent of the U.S. corn and 86 percent of the soybeans had been harvested, Rippey said. Lingering drought was a concern in a few Midwestern States, including Iowa (68 percent in drought on Nov. 5), Illinois (38 percent), Wisconsin (27 percent), Missouri (26 percent), and Minnesota (26 percent).

Cattle in drought (36 percent), winter wheat in drought (31 percent), and hay in drought (22 percent) were down two to three percentage points from a week ago, Rippey said. NASS reported that 91 percent of the winter wheat had been planted by Nov. 3, with 78 percent of the crop emerged.  Although most of the wheat crop is growing well – rated 63 percent good to excellent on Nov. 3 – dryness remains a concern on the southern High Plains.  For example, 20 percent of the winter wheat in Texas was rated very poor to poor on Nov. 3, up from 5 percent two weeks ago.

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. Simeral is with the Western Regional Climate Center at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada.

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:                                                              

U.S. Ag in Drought, current:

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