National Drought Mitigation Center


U.S. drought coverage decreases during August, but intensifies in Northeast

September 8, 2016

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

During the 5-week period ending on September 6, 2016, contiguous U.S. drought coverage decreased to 19.10 percent—down 2.02 percentage points.  While many drought-affected locations in the central and eastern U.S. have experienced improving conditions in recent weeks, a few areas have not.  Specifically, drought further intensified during August and early September in parts of the Northeast, which collectively is experiencing its worst drought since 2002.  At the height of the 2002 Northeastern drought, 70 percent of the region was in drought and nearly 20 percent of the region was in extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4).  Currently, 28 percent of the Northeast is in drought, while 4 percent of the region is in extreme drought (D3).

In the last 5 weeks, the portion of both the U.S. corn and soybean production areas in drought has declined to 3 percent—down from 6 and 7 percent, respectively, on August 2.  Among the major production states, Ohio led with 25 percent of its corn production area and 24 percent of its soybean area in drought on September 6.  Ohio also led the U.S.—tied with Pennsylvania—with 19 percent of its corn rated in very poor to poor condition on September 4, according to USDA/NASS.  Despite local drought issues, Midwestern crops were overall faring well, with 74 percent of the U.S. corn and 73 percent of the soybeans rated in good to excellent condition on September 4.

On September 6, drought was affecting 15 percent of the U.S. cattle inventory, down from 18 percent on August 2.  Similarly, 14 percent of the nation’s hay area was in drought, down from 17 percent in early August.  According to USDA/NASS, 53 percent of the U.S. rangeland and pastures were rated good to excellent on September 4, while only 16 percent were rated very poor to poor.  States reporting at least one-third of their rangeland and pastures in very poor to poor condition on September 4 included Oregon (54 percent), California (40 percent), Nevada (40 percent), Pennsylvania (39 percent), Montana (36 percent), and five of the six New England States, led by Massachusetts (88 percent).

In recent weeks, extreme drought (D3) made its first appearance in the Northeast since September 2010, and achieved its greatest regional coverage since late-summer 2002.  By September 6, extreme drought covered 23 percent of Massachusetts, 13 percent of New Hampshire, and 10 percent of New York.  Farther south, lingering pockets of D3 covered 5 percent of Georgia – down from 13 percent on August 2.  Meanwhile, 84 percent of California was in drought (D1 or worse) on September 6, while 43 percent was considered to be in extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4).

Short-term weather outlook:  A slow-moving frontal boundary will remain the focus for showers and thunderstorms across the nation’s mid-section through Friday.  Additional showers could develop across the same region late in the weekend.  As a result, 5-day rainfall totals should reach 2 to 5 inches from the east-central Plains into the lower Midwest, including the middle Mississippi Valley.  Elsewhere, little or no rain will fall across the Far West and the Southeast, except for scattered showers in southern Florida.  Late-season warmth in many parts of the country will be replaced by a surge of markedly cooler air early next week across the western and central U.S.

Please Note:  The next issuance of this drought update will be Thursday, October 6, 2016, unless conditions warrant an earlier release. 


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