National Drought Mitigation Center


Drought recedes incrementally but still covers nearly half the country

May 16, 2013

Minor adjustments to the map of drought in the United States for the week that ended May 14 resulted in a slightly smaller but more intense area in drought compared with a week earlier.

The total area of the 48 contiguous states in moderate drought or worse on the U.S. Drought Monitor map declined to 47.66 percent from 48.06 percent, but the total area in exceptional drought increased, to 4.4 percent from 4.38 percent. Drought coverage is down 13.43 percentage points since the beginning of 2013 and down 17.79 points from the record high of 65.45 percent on September 25, 2012.

More than half (52 percent) of the U.S. winter wheat remains in a drought area, down one percentage point from last week, said Brad Rippey, a meteorologist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Chief Economist. Cattle in drought also fell one percentage point to 52 percent, while hay in drought was unchanged at 41 percent. Corn, at 34 percent in drought, and soybeans, 25 percent, had slight declines from the previous week. At the height of the drought, in the summer of 2012, peak coverage included 76 percent of cattle in drought, 69 percent of hay, 89 percent of corn, and 88 percent of soybeans.

The 40 impacts currently in the Drought Impact Reporter for May 9-15 reflect the effects of drought that is entering a third year in some areas. Impacts include preparations for what's shaping up to be an active western wildfire season, reduced winter wheat crop estimates for the nation, challenges in feeding livestock, and blowing sand in New Mexico. The list also includes water quality and supply issues, such as reduced hydroelectric power generation in Nebraska, lack of water for irrigating chili peppers in New Mexico, concerns about irrigation in Oregon, voluntary municipal water restrictions in El Paso, Texas, and less water for boating near Bowie, Texas. Oklahoma interfaith leaders have suggested statewide days of prayer for rain and water stewardship. 

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 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. This week’s author was Rich Tinker, with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

The map 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.

U.S. Drought Monitor map, statistics and narrative summary:

Drought Impact Reporter:

USDA’s weekly “Agriculture in Drought” analysis:

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

Seasonal Drought Outlook:

-- Kelly Helm Smith, National Drought Mitigation Center