National Drought Mitigation Center


Rains ease drought in Midwest and East but Plains and West still dry

January 24, 2013

Beneficial rains eased drought in the Midwest, the Mid-Atlantic and the Southeast, but drought maintained its grip across the Plains and much of the West during the week that ended Jan. 22, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The intense drought that has gripped the Plains is in a holding pattern this winter, said this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor author, Mark Svoboda, leader of the Monitoring Program Area of the National Drought Mitigation Center. Drought expanded slightly in southeast Kansas, northeast Oklahoma and north-central Texas.

The West saw little change in the past week. “The lack of snow continues to heighten concern across much of the West,” Svoboda said in narrative accompanying the map. “While there is plenty of time to make up ground, last year’s low pack across the central and southern Rockies in particular has several interests watching closely to see if a strong finish to winter can bring about more promising streamflow forecasts for the dry season come summer.”

The area of the United States shown in moderate drought or worse on the Jan. 22 map declined to 48.55 percent from 49.57 percent the week before; the area in severe or worse drought declined to 33.53 percent from 33.72 percent; the area in extreme drought shrunk to 16.15 percent from 16.22; and the area in exceptional drought increased to 5.31 percent from 5.27 percent the preceding week.

Brad Rippey, U.S. Department of Agriculture meteorologist, noted:

  • For the 29th consecutive week, from July 10, 2012 through January 22, 2013, drought encompassed more than two-thirds of the domestic cattle inventory.
  • The percentages of hay in drought -- 59 -- and cattle in drought -- 68 -- fell two points from a week ago.  Winter wheat in drought -- 59 percent -- was down a point.  The last time hay in drought was less than 60 percent was July 3, 2012.

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 morning.

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.

NOAA’s 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, statistics and narrative summary:

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

Seasonal Drought Outlook: