National Drought Mitigation Center


Drought contracted overall but intensified in west Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico

May 23, 2013

Drought contracted in the nation’s midsection and in the north in the week that ended May 21 but intensified in the Texas Panhandle, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The proportion of the 48 contiguous states in moderate or worse drought decreased to 46.07 percent from 47.66 percent a week earlier, while the proportion in exceptional drought, the worst category, increased to 4.94 percent from 4.4 percent the week before. Drought coverage is down from the record high of 65.45 percent on September 25, 2012, and has decreased in 26 of the last 34 weeks, noted Brad Rippey, this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor author.

Drought receded or eased in Minnesota, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, eastern Oklahoma, eastern Texas, and Montana. Drought intensified in the Texas Panhandle, southwest Oklahoma and in New Mexico.

“A major storm system produced heavy rain across the upper Midwest and portions of the northern and southeastern Plains, easing or eradicating drought,” Rippey said. “The storm, which spent several days crossing the north-central U.S., also helped to spawn the tragic tornado that swept across Moore, Okla., on May 20. However, rainfall associated with the storm largely bypassed the southern High Plains, where drought continued to intensify. The Southwest also remained dry during the drought-monitoring period.”

Rippey also observed, “As the gradient between drought and non-drought areas continues to sharpen, there are some interesting statistics for cattle and winter wheat. Half (50 percent) of the domestic cattle inventory was in drought on May 21, down two percentage points from a week ago to the lowest level since June 12, 2012. However, cattle in exceptional drought (D4) increased from 7 to 10 percent during the last week due to drought intensification on the southern High Plains. Similarly, winter wheat in drought fell two percentage points to 50 percent, while the portion of the crop in D4 climbed from 12 to 14 percent. For other commodities, hay in drought declined four percentage points in the last week to 37 percent; corn in drought dipped five points to 29 percent; and soybeans in drought fell five points to just 20 percent."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported May 19 that at least 40 percent of rangeland and pastures were rated very poor to poor in seven of the eleven western states, Rippey said in narrative accompanying the map. New Mexico topped the list, with 98 percent of its rangeland and pastures rated very poor to poor, followed by Nevada (69 percent), Arizona (63 percent), Colorado (48 percent), Montana (47 percent), Wyoming (46 percent), and California (40 percent). In addition, he said, below-average statewide reservoir storage affected five Western states: Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Oregon.

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 Brad Rippey, a meteorologist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Chief Economist.

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