National Drought Mitigation Center


USDA Analysis: Drought expands in NW, SE in June; LA has driest 4 years on record

July 2, 2015

By Brad Rippey, USDA Meteorologist, Office of the Chief Economist, World Agricultural Outlook Board, Washington, D.C.

During the four-week period ending on June 30, 2015, contiguous U.S. drought coverage increased slightly to 25.88 percent — an increase of 1.31 percentage points. The central U.S. remains largely free of drought, following late-spring downpours. However, drought coverage increased due to hot, dry weather during June in the Northwest and Southeast.

During the four weeks ending June 30, statewide drought coverage, which had been zero in Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina in early June, increased to 14, 16, and 27 percent in those states, respectively, by June 30. Florida’s drought coverage increased from 9 to 20 percent during June. By June 28, USDA rated topsoil moisture 52 percent very short to short in South Carolina, along with 46 percent in Georgia, 35 percent in Mississippi and North Carolina, and 33 percent in Alabama. On the same date, North Carolina led the Southeast with 34 percent of its pastures rated very poor to poor. South Carolina led the nation with 13 percent of its cotton and 11 percent of its peanuts rated very poor to poor.

Areas of the Northwest that did not receive beneficial rainfall during May experienced rapid drought deterioration in June. During the four weeks ending June 30, drought coverage increased from 3 to 41 percent in Montana; 65 to 82 percent in Idaho; 52 to 93 percent in Washington; and 88 to 99 percent in Oregon. A large number of Northwestern locations, including Salem and Eugene, Oregon, experienced their hottest June on record. Previous June records in Salem and Eugene had been set in 1926.

Meanwhile, California’s drought situation remained unchanged, with 99 percent of the state in drought (D1 to D4) and 47 percent in exceptional drought (D4). Downtown Los Angeles completed its driest 4-year period on record, with 29.14 inches of rain (49 percent of normal) falling from July 1, 2011-June 30, 2015. The previous driest such 4-year period in the nearly 140-year history of Los Angeles climate records occurred from July 1, 1947-June 30, 1951, when 34.02 inches fell. By June 28, California led the nation with 90 percent of its topsoil and subsoil moisture rated very short to short. Oregon was second in both categories—topsoil moisture 69 percent very short to short and subsoil moisture 72 percent very short to short. Many Northwestern rain-fed crops were exhibiting signs of stress, with 18 percent of Washington’s spring wheat rated very poor to poor by June 28.

Due to worsening drought in the Northwest and Southeast, the portion of the U.S. winter wheat crop in drought increased slightly from 9 to 13 percent during June. A bigger concern for the overall U.S. winter wheat crop was lingering wetness on the Plains and emerging wetness in the lower Midwest. Meanwhile, U.S. hay in drought increased from 12 to 14 percent during the 4 weeks ending June 30, while cattle in drought increased from 14 to 16 percent.

On June 2, drought covered just 2 percent of the U.S. corn and soybean production area. In fact, wetness and flood-related issues became a bigger concern during June, primarily across the southern and eastern Corn Belt.

Weather outlook: Through the holiday weekend, the focus for heavy rainfall can be expected to stretch from the central and southern Plains to the southern Mid-Atlantic States. Totals of 2 to 4 inches should occur from the mid-South into North Carolina and southern Virginia. Scattered showers will also dot the Plains, although much of Montana and Texas will remain dry. Meanwhile, the majority of the Corn Belt will experience dry weather into early next week, when showery weather will return. In the West, the monsoon circulation will contribute to widespread showers in the Great Basin and the Four Corners States. Hot, dry conditions will persist, however, in the Northwest.

PLEASE NOTE: The next issuance of this emailed drought update will be Thursday, August 6, 2015, unless conditions warrant an earlier release.

The “U.S. Crops in Drought” products will still be produced on a weekly basis, and can be viewed online:

Archived “U.S. Crops in Drought” files can be downloaded: