National Drought Mitigation Center


Storms ease Western drought but much more precipitation needed

March 6, 2014

Drought eased in some areas but encroached into others in the four weeks ending March 4, resulting in a slight overall reduction, to 35.85 percent of the 48 contiguous states, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Storms in late February and early March rolled the portion of California in extreme to exceptional drought (D3-D4) back to 65.89 percent of the state by March 4, from 73.83 percent a week earlier, said Brad Rippey, a meteorologist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Chief Economist.

“A blockbuster storm struck California as the calendar turned from February to March, averting a record-breaking season for dryness,” said Rippey, who was the March 4 U.S. Drought Monitor author, in narrative accompanying the map. “From February 26 to March 2, the potent storm—and a weaker, initial system—accounted for more than 75 percent of the season-to-date precipitation in California locations such as Burbank (4.78 of 5.28 inches); downtown Los Angeles (4.52 of 5.72 inches); Camarillo (3.66 of 4.85 inches); and Sandberg (3.04 of 3.93 inches). However, after the precipitation ended, season-to-date (July 1- March 4) totals were just 40 percent of normal in Burbank, Camarillo, and Sandberg, and 49 percent of normal in downtown Los Angeles.”

“The portion of the U.S. winter wheat crop in drought stood at 45 percent on March 4, down from 49 percent on Feb. 4 but up from 30 percent as recently as Dec. 3, 2013,” Rippey said. “Domestic cattle inventory in drought (41 percent on March 4) and U.S. hay in drought (26 percent) have changed little in recent weeks. Although the Midwest remains locked in a deep-freeze and spring planting is still weeks away, it is worth noting that a relatively small area of the U.S. corn and soybean productions belts—25 and 17 percent, respectively—are experiencing lingering drought. “

USDA reports found that on the Plains, winter wheat conditions remained steady, or slowly declined, during February. Rippey said that as of March 2, USDA reported:

  • In Oklahoma 31 percent of the winter wheat was rated in very poor to poor condition, up from 24 percent a month earlier, and topsoil moisture was rated 87 percent very short to short.
  • Kansas winter wheat was 22 percent very poor to poor, up from 20 percent at the end of January, and topsoil moisture was rated 55 percent very short to short.
  • Nebraska’s winter wheat was unchanged at 18 percent very poor to poor, and topsoil moisture was 57 percent very short to short.
  • Iowa topsoil moisture was 53 percent very short to short.
  • Texas winter wheat was 46 percent very poor to poor condition, up from 28 percent in late-November 2013. Additionally, 52 percent of Texas’ rangeland and pastures were rated very poor to poor on March 2, up from 30 percent just over three months ago. Statewide topsoil moisture was rated 78 percent very short to short in Texas, with numbers topping 90 percent in several northern and western districts.

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 week 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.

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:

U.S. Ag in Drought


U.S. Drought Monitor Change Maps: 

Drought Impact Reporter:                               

National Drought Mitigation Center’s Monthly Drought and Impact Summary

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