So far, 2020 has been anything but ordinary. And on top of worrying about how COVID-19 might impact their farms, agricultural growers are also dealing with the ever-changing constant in their lives: weather. Let’s take a closer look at current drought conditions in the US, how they’ve changed this year, how it compares to 2019, and what is expected over the coming months.
Current Drought Conditions
As of May 14, 2020, a majority of the US has enjoyed above-average precipitation this year. This means that many areas in the Northeast, Southeast, South, and Midwest are maintaining precipitation surpluses, even throughout recent dry weeks.
However, all is not well across the US. Areas in Southern Texas, the West and the High Plains are experiencing intensifying drought conditions, with parts of Colorado, California, and Oregon categorized as Extreme Drought regions. Fortunately, even with the low levels of precipitation in the High Plains region, impacts have been limited so far, but that could change if the dry conditions continue.
The United States Drought Monitor map is updated weekly and can be found here.
How Have Conditions Changed?
The severity of drought conditions across the country are measured by the Drought Severity and Coverage Index (DSCI). The more areas of recorded drought, the higher DSCI, which is updated weekly. Since January 2020, the DCSI has increased from 39 to 60, however, the rate of areas classified as Exceptional Drought – the highest rank – remained the same at zero.
Looking back to mid-May 2019, the country was experiencing less drought overall, with a DSCI of 11 and only abnormally dry or moderate drought conditions.
While it remains to be seen how drought conditions will change over the rest of the year, NOAA predicts that until the end of July, drought conditions will persist through much of the West and areas of the High Plains, with additional drought development in parts of Nevada, Oregon, California, and Washington.
It’s not all bad news though, as parts of Southern Texas that are currently suffering Severe and Extreme Drought should feel relief this summer.
We’ll continue to keep you posted as more data becomes available about expected weather conditions and how crops may be affected over the coming months.