National Drought Mitigation Center


Drought shrinks across upper Midwest and northern Plains

May 30, 2013

The area of the United States in all categories of drought shrank in the week that ended May 28, with the biggest improvements in the upper Midwest and northern Plains, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The proportion of the 48 contiguous states in moderate drought or worse declined to 44.34 percent from 46.07 percent a week earlier. That proportion is down from the record high of 65.45 percent on September 25, 2012. Drought coverage has decreased in 27 of the last 35 weeks, said Brad Rippey, this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor author.

“Heavy rain returned to the northern Plains and upper Midwest late in the drought-monitoring period, further easing or eradicating lingering long-term drought and turning residual drought to flooding in some of the hardest-hit areas,” Rippey said in narrative accompanying the map.  “Local downpours also dotted the southeastern Plains, while a sustained period of heavy rain (and high-elevation snow) nearly eradicated dryness (D0) and drought (D1) from New York and New England. Meanwhile, little or no precipitation fell from California to the central and southern High Plains, further sharpening the gradient between drought and non-drought areas across the nation’s mid-section.”

The state of Iowa is now down to just 1.97 percent in moderate drought, with no parts of the state in any of the three worst categories, in contrast to a week ago, when 17.63 percent of the state was in moderate drought or worse, with small areas in severe and extreme drought. Missouri is now drought-free for the first time since May 1, 2012, with only a small patch of abnormally dry conditions remaining. Drought also receded and eased in the Dakotas, Montana, Nebraska and Texas.

Kansas and Oklahoma saw drought recede in the east but intensify in the west.  A small area of moderate drought appeared in Alabama.

The epicenter of drought has shifted south and west in the past two months. Three-quarters of Nebraska was in exceptional drought from October 2, 2012, through April 2, 2013, and that proportion is now down to 4.02 percent. But 44.87 percent of New Mexico is now in the worst category of drought, with exceptional drought also extending into Colorado, Kansas and the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles. The total proportion of the contiguous 48 states in exceptional drought decreased slightly to 4.74 percent this week.

Rippey noted that, “As the gradient between drought and non-drought areas continues to sharpen, there are some interesting statistics for cattle and winter wheat. Nearly half (47 percent) of the domestic cattle inventory was in drought on May 28, down three percentage points from a week ago to the lowest level since June 12, 2012. However, cattle in exceptional drought remained steady at 10 percent during the last week. Similarly, winter wheat in drought fell one percentage point to 49 percent, while the portion of the crop in D4 was steady at 14 percent.  For other commodities, hay in drought declined two percentage points in the last week to 35 percent; corn in drought dipped six points to 23 percent; and soybeans in drought fell seven points to just 13 percent.”

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. Rippey is 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: