National Drought Mitigation Center


Drought of 2012 receding, but slowing growth of winter wheat

October 18, 2012

Widespread drought across the United States receded slightly for the third week in a row, according to the Oct. 16 U.S. Drought Monitor, after two storm systems brought much-needed rains to the nation’s midsection. Despite the gradual improvement, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that the lingering drought was slowing emergence of winter wheat.

Statistics released with the U.S. Drought Monitor map showed that 52.21 percent of the country was in moderate drought or worse, down from 53.18 percent the week before. All categories of drought showed slight improvements. The map showed 32.48 percent in severe drought or worse, down slightly from 33.39 percent a week earlier; 15.96 percent in extreme drought or worse, compared with 16.85 percent the week before; and 4.88 percent in exceptional drought, compared with 5.16 percent the preceding week.

The biggest improvements were in Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin. The hardest-hit state, Nebraska, showed slight improvement. But drought got worse in Minnesota, South Dakota and Hawaii.

Eric D. Luebehusen, a meteorologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Chief Economist, World Agricultural Outlook Board, found, based on the Oct. 16 U.S. Drought Monitor, that:

  • Winter wheat in drought dipped 1 point to 68 percent. Nationally, planting was 71 percent complete by Oct. 14. More than a third (36 percent) of the crop had emerged, but emergence was hampered by drought in several states, including: South Dakota (11 percent emerged, 56 percentage points behind the five-year average); Nebraska (47 percent emerged, 30 percentage point behind the five-year average); Colorado (51 percent emerged, 21 points behind the five-year average); and Montana (25 percent emerged, 28 points behind the five-year average).
  • Hay in drought fell to 64 percent, down 2 percentage points from last week and 5 points below the Sept. 25 peak.
  • Cattle in drought dropped two points to 71 percent, also now down 5 percent from the peak.

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 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 U.S. Department of Agriculture, and about 350 drought observers across the country. It is released each Thursday based on data through the previous Tuesday.

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:

The National Climatic Data Center maintains drought data based on the Palmer Drought Severity Index, calculated to the beginning of the historic record. The percent area of the U.S. in moderate to extreme drought since 1895 is online:

U.S. Drought Monitor map and narrative summary:

National Climatic Data Center’s State of the Climate Drought Summary:

Seasonal Drought Outlook:

U.S. Department of Agriculture's Crops in Drought report for Oct. 16, 2012.

U.S. Department of Agriculture’s running tally of farm and food impacts from the Drought of 2012:

-- Kelly Helm Smith, National Drought Mitigation Center