United States Drought Map – Updated Realtime

Drought is a hazard of nature.

(Realtime Drought Maps are embedded below)

A drought does not announce its arrival. It’s a “creeping phenomenon,”. What may first appear to be just a dry spell can only be recognized in hindsight as the early days of a drought.

Generally speaking, a drought is defined as a deficiency of precipitation over an extended period of time(usually a season or more), resulting in a water shortage.

A number of factors may influence the onset of drought, or it’s continuation. Long term weather patterns. Storm-track variations. The Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO). El-Nino. La-Nina. The Sun – solar variability. Deep ocean circulation. And other cyclical events that occur naturally here on earth.

Drought Intensity

There are several categories of drought intensity.

  • Abnormally Dry
  • Moderate Drought
  • Severe Drought
  • Extreme Drought
  • Exceptional Drought

Drought Impacts

The impact of drought are many, and include the geographical-environmental, agricultural, social, and economic.

Drought is obviously a high concern for farmers, those growing their own food, those dependent upon reservoirs being replenished to supply municipal systems, the animals and eco-systems, just to name a few…

I had my own personal impact last year when my region was technically in drought. I rely on a natural spring for my water source. Normally it wells up at about 7 – 10 gallons per minute. However it had slowed down to about 3 gallons per minute. It was still plenty for our homestead needs, but I did start to get a bit nervous about it…

The risk of drought is greater in some regions more than others. If you live in a drought-prone region, you probably already know it or have experienced it…

As of this post date, large regions of the southwest United States are in extreme drought or exceptional drought.

For your interest I have embedded several USA drought maps. They will auto-update to the latest images regardless of this article’s post date.

Realtime Drought Maps

Drought Monitor Map – droughtmonitor.unl.edu

(source)

United States Drought Map – noaa.gov

“Short-Term Drought Indicator”

USA Monthly Drought Outlook Map

“Drought Tendency” (Monthly)

United States Seasonal Drought Outlook Map

“Drought Tendency” (Seasonal)

United States Drought History

The use of tree ring methodology has revealed that the characterization of drought has been a normal part of climate throughout our history.

[ Read: United States Aquifer Locations ]

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29 Comments

  1. Living in the Sierra Nevada’s my biggest drought concern is fire. I have noticed that steams that should be running full bore right now due to snow melt are not. Snow pack this year was only 61% of normal so things are going to dry out quick

    1. Seriously! We are near Fresno, with the Creek Fire last year and hardly any snow/rain this year the fire season is going to be brutal.

  2. This is relative drought by location. So if there is usually 30 inches of water in a year and you only get 20, that’s going to show up as a drought.

    I always laugh when an area goes without rain for a WEEK and it’s panicsville (one guy was blaming the failure of his potatoes on going without rain for a week). But this is relative drought. The plants and animals in the area are used to that much rain. The hydrology cycles depend on it and are adjusted to it. If we got 20 inches of annual rain here, there would be massive flooding and other problems.

    I am working on transitioning to dry farming, relying only on the annual precipitation, but we’ve gotten far less water this winter than we normally do. So the water bank I could normally rely on just isn’t there. The soil is already dry six inches down, so seeds and seedlings need to be watered when they’re first put in. That’s going to make a difference in their development and later drought tolerance.

  3. Some times it gets so dry the creek only runs 3 days a week! :)

    Seriously when we have a drought fires are my main concern. There is a lot of fuel on the ground from the hurricanes this past year.

  4. Have been in Western Colorado now for 13 years. The majority of those years have had drought. Average moisture for our area is listed as 8″ annually. Last several of years we have had less than 5″. Very thankful for really well managed irrigation system out of the high Rockies. My water rights are tied to the land, so many shares for so many acres. I find that i have enough water if i leave a chunk of ground fallow and use my water on the rest of my ground. Thankfully the grapes are really deep rooted, and by stingy application of water over the years, i have forced them to put roots down deep, so they now need no surface irrigation. Fruit trees are another matter, and i have to water them every month, even in winter. You learn to adapt to the dry climate. Another drought year? yup, and a 40% reduction in irrigation water, yup, got it covered. New comers have a hard time understand all this, so you kinda have to help them out. They see water in the canals and think we are all good, nope. that water is ear-marked for crops and not for your lawn. We have a saying here, “Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over”. gonna be a long summer.

  5. Reply to poorman and California (Adam): I fought fires in my younger years in your general area’s of operation. ( Sierra Nevada Mountains above Fresno ). Fire is no joke and you both may need to be prepared for possible bug-out plans and evacuation if/when the fires get to be too big and fast moving. Fighting fire is young person’s work and I left that field long ago.

    I moved to the place I currently live because my wife and I both got tired of living life under a constant state of drought. Natural resources and wildlife are the absolute last priority when it comes to budgeting of state and federal tax dollars. On the ground, it meant lower lake levels and massive fish die-offs. In the backcountry, it meant finding dead piglets that were too short to drink out of cattle troughs. All animals need water in which to live and California’s answer was to drill their wells deeper for both cities and farms and ranches. After doing this for decades, the only farms and ranches that could afford to drill very deep were the big outfits. ( go big or go home.). It was around 100 years ago that California began building pipelines and canal systems to ship water from other areas to LA.

    1. I live in SoCal, and know what you mean about the continual drought here in CA. Our local water district is already saying they’re gonna raise already high rates again. Now the rotten governor who is responsible for this mess is crying about it. It was reported that officials here have been releasing billions of gallons from our reservoirs.

  6. Drought stories continued: usually 3 years into a drought, the seasonal water sources in the back country would slow to a trickle then dry up completely. At that point, the animals that live in the brush have to leave in order to drink/”water-up”. While this may be a boon to hunters ( staking out and setting up your hide near a watering hole.). It becomes sad when depredation permits are issued because the animals are drinking the irrigation water, eating and destroying crops. This leads to the death of wildlife on an industrial scale: Shooting deer on the edges of cultivated fields and golf courses, Black bears breaking into gas stations and drinking the water near the car wash stations. Many end up getting killed by fast moving automobiles at night. ( only thing that reflects light on a black bear is their eyes ). Cougars being hit by automobiles and shot behind shopping centers within 500 feet of a school zone.

    Drought is miserable to live under. If you relocate to another region, please take drought forecasting seriously and plan accordingly. Animals follow the water and living in a dry area will mean closer-than-expected encounters with wildlife.

    1. We just sold our house and were looking for property to build on. One site had a 980ft deep well and only produced 4gpm. CalFire would have made us put in storage tanks just to build a house. We are just renting now in an ag area until we find our next house to buy. We have no idea where to move, ideally a “free” state. What climate would you suggest?

      1. You could look on the web for land and homes ( at Zillow) in the areas not on the drought list in the states you like…but consider the problems of climate and natural disasters that perpetuate the region. I live in Northern Minnesota, land o Lakes, where I am surrounded by lakes and forests and activities if you like the north,… low housing costs, low homestead taxes, no riots, and low population. No hurricanes, no earthquakes, and tornadoes virtually nil, I can run naked on my land and no one would know, that’s about as free as I can get.

        1. Same same in central WI.
          Northern MINN.. can’t riot in the cold, it’s unpleasant and may well be too much like actual work.
          Gots ta have that A/C and politicians that care about their own rear ends more than yours.

  7. Hey Mr. Ken, good work as usual. Here in North Central Florida we always seem to get the rain that we need. I guess it helps to be stuck out with water on both sides.

    Don’t mean to break the rules, but haven’t been able to get to the Attack On Liberty site today?

  8. I’m looking at this apr 6 21 it says abnormally dry.

    We’re in a 4 day drizzle with occasional medium to hard rains.
    It has not been very wet or dry here, the spring in central WI was very mild this year.
    Perfect for digging/tilling and planting.
    Some of the farmers are getting a head start.

    Historical data says the south west has been a desert for hundreds of years at a time so? I don’t see a big deal.
    People throughout history have intentionally moved into hostile area’s and climates and get all bent when it reverts to a completely normal state that’s less nice then when they moved in?
    Typical human stupidity.

  9. Last year was horrible in the mountains of AZ. We are usually dry from April until we get the southern humid air that brings our summer monsoon rain in July. No monsoon due to La Niña weather patterns. Ended up going 8 months without rain. Stock tanks were kept full and we put out low water troughs for the smaller animals and birds. One blessing from no rain is no thunderstorms and no lightning caused fires. This summer will be scary if we get our “normal” precipitation…lots of dead vegetation from last year will burn like gas soaked kindling. We have a fire evacuation plan in place and empty cages ready for the chickens, rabbits, dogs and cats. AZ lost a Hot Shot crew a number of years ago so we take the threat of fire very seriously.

  10. I remember moving to the farm ( so eastern So Dak ) in 1957 and on that farm were three major lakes on 320 ac, for about 3 to 4 yrs, Dad would get some really nice hay from those 3 lakes at first, but once the rain came and the water start filling the lakes up to the point where we couldn’t farm them any more. In 1959, we put a corner post in near the edge of the lake that is on top of the hill ( appos 5 to 8 acres, an old telephone pole was put appox 30 ft out into the dry lake bed at that time ) that stuck up about 8 feet out the ground. Last fall that corner post only had appox 2 feet sticking up out of the water, this spring there is maybe another 2 to 3 feet exposed now.But there is still appox 2 to 3 ft of water in that 20 ac lake ( there is no drainage for that lake ). will it drain and dry out, yeah, someday in the future when the rain cycle changes even more to a dryer rain cycle. Next year? 5 years? Good question

  11. Another thing that comes to mind, the drain tiling by the farmers in the upper midwest to get rid of excess ground water ( my brother in law lives in nw iowa and has tiled just about everything he has ). when I ask him about the retaining water in the soil, his answer was that the rain will always come on time ( last year they didn’t come on time, but he still got a crop, but not like usual ). I remember my Dad and grandfather and uncles telling and talking about the ” dirty ” thirtes and when the rains stopped and how long it was before they started to have any rain of any amount, how dark it would be at noon, that you thought it was night time.No matter how well you would close up your house, you would still have a layer of dust and dirt every where in your house. So with all of this tiling by farmers what is the future of us and farming? What is the answer? Good question, only the future can answer that.

    1. Alfie – agree on the drain tile. Most say so the soil dries out so they can get in the field. While true, you are correct that it is draining the subsoil moisture…and nutrients. Long term won’t be good. Farming ground that shouldn’t be? Govt wants their $$, thus have to pay the bills somehow, but I don’t believe tiling is the be all end all and will have long term consequences.

      1. I dont get why guys are going to such extremes to pull off a crop, greed is what comes to mind

  12. Off subject, a little …..

    For those in areas in CONUS, check out:
    https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/
    for fairly current info on all current activities. As of 10APR2021 2228 PST there are 38 active fires. Most are “prescribed”. Might be nice to know if you reside down wind. One is a little close to NPR.

    Drought does help fires. Just a FYI

      1. My BIL said the other day he gets his “science” information from NPR–I nearly laughed, for several obvious reasons.

    1. Crow Bait,
      Yeah, prescribed burn on our side of the border from NRP. We do a lot of that here, probably could do more. It is good forest/woodland management to get rid of dense fuels in those areas now, when the fires can be controlled rather than summer in the middle of severe drought. I’m sure NRP has his TP horde secured well, besides, his side of the border is mostly sage/scrub land, not forests.

  13. I think California needs another 100 billion dollar high speed train, instead of 100 de-salination plants, to produce 100 million gallons of fresh water, we can send 400 passengers from San Francisco to L.A., weee…who needs millions when California can afford dumpsters of billions and burn them on another useless project.

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