Issued 11 February 2022
Please note that the values presented in this report are based on preliminary data. They will change when the final data are processed, but will not be replaced on these pages.
National Drought Highlights
- Based on the Palmer Drought Index, severe to extreme drought affected about 28% of the contiguous United States as of the end of January 2022, an increase of about 7% from last month. About 3% of the contiguous U.S. fell in the severely to extremely wet categories.
- About 49% of the contiguous U.S. fell in the moderate to extreme drought categories (based on the Palmer Drought Index) at the end of January.
- On a broad scale, the 1980s and 1990s were characterized by unusual wetness with short periods of extensive droughts, the 1930s and 1950s were characterized by prolonged periods of extensive droughts with little wetness, and the first two decades of the 2000s saw extensive drought and extensive wetness (moderate to extreme drought graphic, severe to extreme drought graphic).
- A file containing the national monthly percent area severely dry and wet from 1900 to present is available for the severe to extreme and moderate to extreme categories.
- Historical temperature, precipitation, and Palmer drought data from 1895 to present for climate divisions, states, and regions in the contiguous U.S. are available at the Climate Division: Temperature-Precipitation-Drought Data page. These filenames begin with "climdiv".
- According to the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM), as of February 1, 2022, 55.24% of the contiguous U.S. (CONUS) (46.33% of the U.S. including Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico) was classified as experiencing moderate to exceptional (D1-D4) drought.
Detailed Drought Overview
The upper-level circulation during January 2022 was very active with several shortwave troughs and closed lows moving through the jet stream flow. But they moved through a long-wave pattern that was dominated most of the month by a long-wave ridge in the West and trough over the eastern CONUS. The shortwave troughs occasionally brought Pacific fronts and surface lows with them that weakened as they moved through the western ridge. The surface lows were re-energized as they moved through the eastern trough and pulled down cold Canadian air behind them which reinforced the cold fronts. The weather systems spread Pacific moisture across the Pacific Northwest and tapped Gulf of Mexico moisture to bring rain and snow to areas from the Lower Mississippi Valley to Ohio Valley then eastward to the Atlantic coast. But the upper-level ridge deflected weather systems and inhibited precipitation in the West, and the dominant northwesterly flow over the central part of North America frequently sent dry Canadian air masses across the country east of the Rockies. As a result, monthly precipitation amounts were mostly below normal, with only a few areas receiving above-normal totals. These wet areas included parts of the Washington coast, High Plains of Wyoming and Colorado, North Dakota, and Tennessee and Ohio Valleys to Mid-Atlantic coast. The upper-level ridge contributed to warmer-than-normal monthly temperatures across most of the West, while the upper-level trough and its parade of Canadian air masses brought colder-than-normal temperatures to much of the country east of the Rockies, especially the Great Lakes, Ohio Valley, and Northeast. The Hawaiian Islands and much of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean region were drier than normal during January.
As a result of these conditions, drought or abnormal dryness expanded or intensified in the southern Plains to Lower Mississippi Valley; parts of the central and northern Plains to Great Lakes, Northeast, and Puerto Rico; and most of Hawaii. Drought or abnormal dryness contracted or decreased in intensity, due to beneficial precipitation in January or a reassessment from earlier precipitation, in parts of the West, western parts of the central to northern Plains, and the Carolinas to Virginia. Drought expansion exceeded contraction with the USDM-based national moderate-to-exceptional drought footprint across the CONUS rising from 54.8 percent at the end of December to 55.2 percent at the end of January (from 45.8 percent to 46.3 percent for the 50 States and Puerto Rico). According to USDM statistics, 40 percent or more of the CONUS has been in moderate drought or worse for the last 71 weeks. This is a record in the 22-year USDM history. The previous record was 68 consecutive weeks (June 19, 2012 to October 1, 2013).
According to the Palmer Drought Index, which goes back to the beginning of the 20th century, about 49.0 percent of the CONUS was in moderate to extreme drought at the end of January, which is more than the end of December and about the same as the peak percent area in all of 2021. The percent area of the CONUS in moderate to extreme drought has hovered between roughly 35 and 49 percent for the last 17 months (since September 2020).
The impacts of the drought can be seen in several indicators, especially in the West and Plains. These include dry soils (GRACE surface and root zone, VIC, SPoRT, CPC, Leaky Bucket models), low ground water levels (GRACE, USGS), some low streamflow levels (USGS), high evapotranspiration (1- to 5-month EDDI; 1-month ESI), and the Quick Drought Response Index (QuickDRI). Many reservoirs were still low in western Texas and much of the West (California; Washington; Oregon map 1, 2, 3, 4; Idaho map 1, 2, 3; Southwest map 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9).
Drought conditions at the end of January, as depicted on the February 1, 2022 USDM map, included the following core drought and abnormally dry areas:
- Moderate (D1) to severe (D2) drought extended from the West Coast to Rocky Mountains and into the adjacent Great Plains, with a large areas of extreme (D3) to exceptional (D4) drought. January's lack of precipitation resulted in a decrease in mountain snowpack (SNOTEL SWE maps for end of January compared to end of December). The percent area of the West experiencing moderate to exceptional drought, according to USDM statistics, decreased slightly from 89.3 percent at the end of December to 87.9 percent at the end of January. The percent area of the West (from the Rockies to the West Coast) in moderate to extreme drought (based on the Palmer Drought Index) jumped to 77.6 percent at the end of January 2022. The Palmer-based percentage has responded in tandem to the alternating wet-dry months since the fall. The value fell from about 90 percent at the end of September 2021 to about 65 percent with the wet October, then rose to about 78 percent with the dry November, fell again to about 58 percent due to December's wet conditions, and now rose again to about 78 percent with January's dryness.
- The central to northern Plains experienced expanding or intensifying drought in some areas and contracting or less intense drought in other areas, while drought basically expanded or intensified in the southern Plains to Lower Mississippi Valley. Exceptional drought developed in the Oklahoma panhandle to northeast New Mexico. For the central to northern Plains, the moderate to extreme drought area expanded slightly from 64.8 percent at the end of December to 66.1 percent at the end of January. In the southern Plains, moderate to exceptional drought grew from 81.7 percent at the end of December to 85.8 percent at the end of January. In the Lower Mississippi Valley, moderate to extreme drought jumped from 37.4 percent at the end of December to 61.1 percent at the end of January. Taken together, the southern Plains and Lower Mississippi Valley (South Region) saw moderate to exceptional drought jump from 62.4 percent at the end of December to 69.8 percent at the end of January. Several large wildfires ignited across Texas and Oklahoma near the end of the month (wildfire maps for January 1, 6, 11, 24, 31).
- Moderate to severe drought continued in the Midwest, with the drought area expanding from 15.3 percent at the end of December to 16.6 percent at the end of January.
- Moderate to severe drought persisted in the Northeast, hovering at about 2.0 percent of the region. What little drought remained was in northern Maine and New Hampshire. New Hampshire has experienced some degree of drought since June 23, 2020; this 85-week stretch is a USDM record for the state.
- Above-normal precipitation continued to shrink the moderate drought in the Carolinas and Virginia. In the Southeast, the drought area decreased from 16.2 percent at the end of December to 4.9 percent at the end of January.
- A very dry January brought the return of moderate drought to Hawaii, with the drought area exploding from zero percent at the end of December to 81.4 percent of the state at the end of January.
- In the Caribbean, severe drought developed on Puerto Rico, with the drought area increasing from 28.0 percent at the end of December to 39.0 percent at the end of January. Drought intensified in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), with extreme drought developing on St. Thomas and continuing on St. Croix, and severe drought developing on St. John.
- In the U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands (USAPI), compared to last month, moderate drought worsened to extreme drought at Wotje, severe drought developed at Kwajalein, moderate drought developed at Ailinglaplap, and abnormal dryness developed at Majuro and Mili (in the Marshall Islands); moderate drought improved to abnormal dryness at Kapingamarangi, but moderate drought developed on Fananu and abnormal dryness developed at Chuuk, Nukuoro, and Woleai (Federated States of Micronesia); and abnormal dryness ended at Guam but began on Saipan (Marianas).
Palmer Drought Index
The Palmer drought indices measure the balance between moisture demand (evapotranspiration driven by temperature) and moisture supply (precipitation). The Palmer Z Index depicts moisture conditions for the current month, while the Palmer Hydrological Drought Index (PHDI) and Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) depict the current month's cumulative moisture conditions integrated over the last several months.
While both the PDSI and PHDI indices show long-term moisture conditions, the PDSI depicts meteorological drought while the PHDI depicts hydrological drought. The PDSI map may show less severe and extensive drought (as well as wet spell conditions) in some parts of the country than the PHDI map because the meteorological conditions that produce drought and wet spell conditions are not as long-lasting as the hydrological impacts.
Used together, the Palmer Z Index and PHDI maps show that short-term drought occurred across much of the West and southern Plains, expanding or intensifying drought, and in parts of the Great Lakes and Northeast, reducing long-term wet conditions in these regions (PHDI maps for January compared to December). Short-term wet conditions along the Mid-Atlantic coast contracted or decreased the intensity of long-term drought in the Carolinas, Virginia, and Delaware.
Standardized Precipitation Index
The Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) measures moisture supply. The SPI maps here show the spatial extent of anomalously wet and dry areas at time scales ranging from 1 month to 24 months.
The SPI maps illustrate how moisture conditions have varied considerably through time and space over the last two years. Dryness covered much of the southern to northern Plains and Gulf of Mexico coast at the 1- to 3-month time scales, and much of the southern Plains to Lower Mississippi Valley at 6 months. Much of the Northeast is dry at 1-3 months with the dryness apparent in parts of northern New England at the longer time scales. Dryness extends down across the Appalachian chain and Atlantic Coast at 2 to 3 months, then is limited to the Mid-Atlantic (Carolinas to Virginia) coast at 6 to 12 months. In the Great Lakes, dryness is widespread at the 1-month time scale, limited to southern and eastern sections at 2 to 3 months, and evident in western parts at 6 to 12 months. Nearby, the Upper Mississippi Valley is dry at the 1- and 9- to 24-month time scales. Various parts of Florida are dry at the 1- to 12-month time scales. In the West, dryness is widespread at the 1- and 24-month time scales, in a few scattered areas at 2 to 3 months, covers a large part of the Southwest at 6 months and northern sections at 9 months, and is evident in the Far West and northern sections at 12 months. The dryness at the 24-month time scale extends across most of the West and into the adjacent western and northern sections of the Great Plains. Wet conditions dominate the northern Plains at 2 to 6 months, coastal Washington at 3 to 12 months, parts of the Northeast and Great Lakes to Tennessee Valley at 6 to 24 months, and most of the Gulf Coast at 9 to 24 months. An interesting pattern continues at the 24-month time scale — very dry conditions dominate across the West to northern Plains, while very wet conditions dominate the Deep South to Atlantic Coast.
Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index
The SPI measures water supply (precipitation), while the SPEI (Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index) measures the combination of water supply (precipitation) and water demand (evapotranspiration as computed from temperature). Warmer temperatures tend to increase evapotranspiration, which generally makes droughts more intense.
For the Northern Hemisphere, January marks the midpoint of climatological winter, which is the coldest season when evapotranspiration is minimal. During January 2022, temperatures were near to above normal across parts of the West, but not excessively so (except along the West Coast), and cooler than normal in the Great Lakes and Northeast to Ohio Valley. The January SPEI map shows anomalies that are comparable to the SPI map. However, when the unusual warmth of December and earlier months is taken into account, the SPEI maps show much more extreme drought than the SPI maps, especially in the southern to central Plains (SPEI maps for last 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 months) (SPI maps for last 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 months).
The dryness and heat at 12-month and longer time scales result in drier SPEI values than SPI values, especially across parts of the West (SPEI maps for last 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72 months) (SPI maps for last 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72 months).
The wet conditions of December, October, and earlier months in 2021 prevented any of the statewide SPEI values from being record dry, even at the longer time scales. But the long-term dryness and heat in Arizona was near-record. The 60-month and 72-month SPEI values for Arizona ranked second driest. The corresponding SPI values were only slightly drier than normal.
January 2022 was drier than normal across Hawaii from the Big Island to Molokai and mostly wetter than normal from Oahu to Kauai. A wet December 2021 resulted in wetter-than-normal conditions dominating at the 2- to 6-month time scales. Drier-than-normal precipitation anomalies became common at a growing number of stations at the 7- to 10-month time scales, especially from the Big Island to Oahu. The last 12 months were mostly wetter than normal, while the longer time scales had a mixed anomaly pattern (last 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 24, 36, 48, 60 months) (climate engine model percent of normal precipitation map for the last month). Monthly streamflow was below normal at some streams on the Big Island to Molokai and mostly near to above normal across to Kauai. Moderate drought redeveloped across the Big Island to Molokai, with abnormal dryness spreading across the rest of the state. The overall drought footprint jumped to 81.4 percent on the February 1st USDM map.
January 2022 had a mixed precipitation anomaly pattern across much of Alaska, but drier-than-normal conditions dominated at stations in the north and along the Aleutians with wetter-than-normal conditions dominating in the panhandle and interior southeast. By 3 months, the pattern had shifted with drier-than-normal conditions along the Aleutians to southern coast, above-normal precipitation in the west, interior, and eastern regions, with a mixed anomaly pattern elsewhere. This pattern continued for the 4- to 12-month time scales. At longer time scales, the eastern interior and western sections were generally wetter than normal with a mixed anomaly pattern elsewhere (low elevation station precipitation anomaly maps for the last 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 24, 36, 48, 60 months) (high elevation SNOTEL station precipitation percentile map for the last 1, 3, 6, and 12 months) (high elevation SNOTEL station precipitation anomaly maps for January 2022 and October 2021-January 2022) (SNOTEL basin precipitation anomaly map for October 2021-January 2022) (SNOTEL basin and station precipitation anomaly maps for the last 1, 3, 6, 12 months) (climate division precipitation rank maps for the last 1, 3, 6, and 12 months) (climate engine model percent of normal precipitation map for the last month) (Leaky Bucket model precipitation percentile map).
January temperatures were generally near to cooler than normal with some warmer-than-normal anomalies mixed in, especially from the Aleutians to central and south central regions of Alaska. This pattern held for the last 2 months, but near to cooler-than-normal conditions dominated at longer time scales (low elevation station temperature anomaly maps for the last 1, 2, 3, 4, 12 months) (climate division temperature rank maps for the last 1, 3, 6, and 12 months) (Leaky Bucket model temperature percentile map). End-of-January satellite-based and SNOTEL station and basin (map 1, map 2) observations of snow water equivalent (SWE) in snowpack was mostly near to above normal with some below-normal locations.
Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands
Drier-than-normal conditions dominated Puerto Rico (PR) and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) for January 2022 and most of the last 2 to 12 months. The last 24-48 months were also mostly drier than normal with a mixed anomaly pattern at the 60-month time scale (radar-based precipitation anomaly estimates for the last 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 12 months) (low elevation station precipitation maps for the last 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 24, 36, 48, 60 months) (climate engine model percent of normal precipitation map for the last month: PR and USVI, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico region).
Root zone analyses indicated that soil conditions were dry along the southern and northern coasts and eastern interior regions of PR (root zone soil saturation fraction; relative soil moisture at 0-10 cm [0-4 in], 10-40 cm [4-16 in], 40-100 cm [16-39 in], 100-200 cm [39-79 in] depth). Monthly streamflow was much below normal across large parts of eastern and central PR. Groundwater on the USVI declined steadily throughout the month on St. Croix and St. John. It rose at mid-January then has been declining since then on St. Thomas. The end-of-January groundwater level on St. Croix was at a record low value compared to the 2016-2022 record. The end-of-January values at St. John and St. Thomas were very low but not at record low values based on the 2016-2022 period. Severe drought developed on PR during January, with the moderate to severe drought area expanding from 28.0 percent of the territory (in moderate drought) at the end of December to 39.0 percent (in moderate to severe drought) at the end of January. Conditions deteriorated in the USVI, with extreme drought developing on St. Thomas and continuing on St. Croix, and severe drought developing on St. John.
According to reports provided by the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), the fire danger weather in PR continues to increase as dryness intensifies. There are reports of soil cracking, and dried and brown grass. In addition, several cattle ranchers have reportedly sold a portion, or all, of their cattle due to poor pasture conditions and the high cost of maintaining cattle in drought conditions. A decreasing trend in water levels continued to be observed at reservoirs, rivers, and aquifers across PR. On the USVI, vegetation is showing signs of distress across the territory due to the hot and dry conditions. Intermittent rainfall territory-wide is not recharging ponds and collection containers as any collected water is evaporating quickly due to high temperatures and high winds. Livestock farmers are beginning to purchase hay as vegetation isn't bouncing back. Farmers are employing conservation methods, including irrigation, and are purchasing water.
CONUS State Precipitation Ranks
January 2022 was drier than normal across most of the West, Great Plains, Midwest, and Northeast, and along the Gulf of Mexico Coast, with record dry conditions occurring locally in parts of the West. Thirty states had a precipitation rank in the driest third of the 128-year historical record for January, including six in the top ten driest category — California and Nevada (both second driest), Utah (third driest), Wisconsin (eighth driest), and Michigan and Vermont (both ninth driest).
November 2021-January 2022 was drier than normal across most of the Great Plains and Northeast, and much of the West, Southeast, and Midwest, with record dry conditions occurring locally along parts of the central Gulf Coast and in the central Plains. Thirty-three states had a precipitation rank in the driest third of the 1895-2022 historical record for November-January, including eleven in the top ten driest category — Louisiana (driest on record), Connecticut (fourth driest), Kansas and New Jersey (both sixth driest), Mississippi and Nebraska (both seventh driest), Oklahoma (eighth driest), Rhode Island and Texas (both ninth driest), and Maryland and Pennsylvania (both tenth driest).
August 2021-January 2022 was drier than normal across the central and southern Plains to Lower and Upper Mississippi Valley, the Mid-Atlantic Coast, northern New England, and parts of the West. Ten states had a precipitation rank in the driest third of the 1895-2022 historical record for the six month period, mainly centered over the southern Plains, but none were in the top ten driest category. However, temperatures for August 2021-January 2022 were warmer than normal virtually across the CONUS, with record-warm temperatures for this period stretching across the central to southern High Plains. Six states had a record-warm August-January — Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. This excessive and persistent heat enhanced evapotranspiration which exacerbated drought conditions in areas where precipitation was lacking.
The last 12 months (February 2021-January 2022) were drier than normal across much of the West and Great Plains, northern New England, Mid-Atlantic states, southern Florida, and parts of the Great Lakes. Ten states had a precipitation rank in the driest third of the historical record for February-January, including one in the top ten driest category — Montana, which ranked eighth driest.
During January 2022, the Primary Hard Red Winter Wheat agricultural belt was drier than average and near to cooler than normal. The month ranked as the 62nd warmest and 33rd driest January, regionwide, in the 1895-2022 record.
October marks the beginning of the growing season for the Primary Hard Red Winter Wheat belt. October 2021-January 2022 was warmer and drier than normal. The period ranked as the warmest and 27th driest October-January, regionwide, on record.
As of February 1, 2022, drought affected approximately 75 percent of barley production, 74 percent of sorghum production, 69 percent of winter wheat production, 66 percent of the sheep inventory, 55 percent of spring wheat production, 53 percent of the cattle inventory, 52 percent of cotton production, 49 percent of the milk cow inventory, 46 percent of hay acreage, 43 percent of rice production, 20 percent of corn production, and 15 percent of soybean production. Based on January 2022 U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, soil moisture was short or very short (dry or very dry), and crops and pasture and rangeland were in poor to very poor condition, in states in the southern Plains:
U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands
The NOAA National Weather Service (NWS) offices, the Pacific ENSO Applications Climate Center (PEAC), and partners provided reports on conditions across the Pacific Islands.
In the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands (USAPI) (maps — Federated States of Micronesia [FSM], Northern Mariana Islands, Marshall Islands [RMI], Republic of Palau, American Samoa, basinwide), January 2022 was drier-than-normal in the RMI and parts of the FSM. It was near to wetter than normal across Palau, the Marianas, American Samoa, and other parts of the FSM.
Monthly precipitation amounts were below the monthly minimum needed to meet most water needs (4 inches in the Marianas and Pago Pago, and 8 inches elsewhere) at all six analyzed locations in the RMI, Saipan (in the Marianas), and Chuuk, Kapingamarangi, Mwoakilloa, Pingelap, and Woleai (in the FSM). January precipitation was above the monthly minimums at the rest of the stations across the USAPI. The 4- and 8-inch thresholds are important because, if monthly precipitation falls below the threshold, then water shortages or drought become a concern.
In the table below, the station identified as Koror is Palau International Airport (Airai).
As measured by percent of normal precipitation, Kapingamarangi and Kwajalein were drier than normal in the short term (January and the last 3 months [November 2021-January 2022]) and long term (last 12 months [February 2021-January 2022]). Chuuk, Kosrae, and Majuro were drier than normal in the short term and wetter than normal in the long term. Pago Pago was wetter than normal for January but drier than normal for the other two time periods. Pohnpei was drier than normal for January but wetter than normal for the other two time periods. Airai, Guam, Lukunor, Saipan, and Yap were wetter than normal for all three time periods.
Based on percent of normal average (instead of normal median values), in the Marianas Islands, precipitation during January was above normal on Rota and below normal at some of the stations on Guam and Saipan. Below-normal anomalies dominated at the 2-month time scale, but above-normal anomalies dominated at 3 and 4 months. The last 6 months were mostly drier than normal, with a mixed anomaly pattern evident at 7 to 12 months. Drier-thn-normal anomalies dominated at longer time scales (percent of normal precipitation maps for the last 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 24, 36, 48, 60 months).
Based on percent of normal average (instead of normal median values), in the Marshall Islands, precipitation during January was below normal across the region. Precipitation was drier than normal on most islands except the southwest at the 2-month period, with the wetter-than-normal area in the southwest expanding at the 3-month time period. Drier-than-normal conditions dominated at the 4 to 12 months. The precipitation anomalies were mixed at longer time scales (percent of normal precipitation maps for the last 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 24, 36, 48, 60 months).
According to the January 31st USDM produced for the USAPI, moderate drought improved to abnormal dryness in the southern FSM at Kapingamarangi, while moderate drought developed at Fananu and abnormal dryness developed at Nukuoro, Chuuk, and Woleai. In the RMI, moderate drought worsened to extreme drought at Wotje, abnormal dryness worsened to severe drought at Kwajalein, moderate drought developed at Ailinglaplap, and abnormal dryness developed at Majuro and Mili. In the Marianas, abnormal dryness ended at Guam but developed at Saipan. The rest of the USAPI stations were free of drought and abnormal dryness.
The National Weather Service (NWS) office in Guam issued four Drought Information Statements (DGT) for drought, three in January (on the 6th, 14th, and 28th) and one in early February (on the 1st) discussing the conditions in the USAPI. December rains filled water catchments on Kapingamarangi and allowed vegetation to recover from inadequate rain of the previous months, and January rains have continued to be beneficial. On Wotje, by mid-January water catchment levels were very low with residents using personal water catchment tanks for drinking water and community tanks for other water needs. By late January, private water catchments were very low or dry with residents using the community catchment tanks at the local church and school for drinking water. Vegetation and crops were browning and some were drying up. Water resources were stressed on parts of Kwajalein atoll at the end of January, including but not limited to Mejatto and Ebadon. Residents across the northern Marshall Islands were conserving water as best they can. By early February, many catchments in the northern Marshall Islands were very low or empty. Some wells were salty but well water levels were still decent. Catchment water was being used for drinking only on many islands with some using coconuts for hydration. Plants were yellow to brown with some plants absent of leaves. Some fruits were dropping prematurely. Some islands have reverse osmosis units but many were inoperable. Many islands had 2-4 weeks of water left if no rain falls. No rain was measured at Wotje during January and none fell in December after December 4. The Marshall Islands National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) was mobilizing to provide relief to the northern Marshall Islands. Reports received by the NWS from Fananu at the end of January indicated that all private water tanks were empty and the 2 water tanks placed at the school were being used by the whole island for drinking and cooking, but those were getting low. The residents were using a deep well for showering and that was brackish water. Reports received on the 24th indicated that half of the crops on Fananu were dry and the taro patches were drying. Storage in the Majuro reservoir declined through January 22, rose the following two days, then steadily fell to the end of the month. The peak reservoir storage was 22.6 million gallons on the 2nd, the minimum of 20.3 million gallons was reached on the 15th, and the month ended with 21.0 million gallons in storage. This is below the 28.8 million gallon threshold for concern.
January 2022 precipitation ranks included several in the top 5 and top 10 driest category, with Wotje tying with January 2016 as the driest January on record:
- Wotje: driest January (in 39 years of data) and fourth driest December-January.
- Ailinglaplap: third driest January (39 years of data) and second driest May-January.
- Jaluit: fifth driest January (39 years).
- Mili: seventh driest January (38 years).
- Kwajalein: third driest December-January (70 years) and June-January, and fourth driest May-January.
- Woleai: sixth driest January (40 years).
- Pingelap: seventh driest January (39 years) and fifth driest August-January.
- Chuuk: eighth driest January (71 years).
- Nukuoro: ninth driest January (40 years) and December-January, and seventh driest October-January, September-January, and August-January.
- Kapingamarangi: in spite of having only the 12th driest January (in a 32-year record) and 15th driest December-January, it was still the fourth driest August-January, July-January, June-January, and May-January.
At the wet end of the scale, it was the second wettest January (38 years) and wettest December-January and November-January at Ulithi.
The following analysis of historical data for the USAPI stations in the Global Historical Climatology Network-Daily (GHCN-D) dataset, augmented with fill-in data from the 1981-2010 Normals, helps put the current data into historical perspective by computing ranks based on the period of record. The table below lists the precipitation ranks for January 2022, August 2021-January 2022 (last 6 months), and February 2021-January 2022 (the last 12 months). Some stations have a long period of record and their dataset is fairly complete, while other stations have a shorter period of record and the dataset has some missing data.
|Station||January 2022||Aug 2021-Jan 2022||Feb 2021-Jan 2022||Period of Record|
NOAA Regional Climate Centers
More information, provided by the NOAA Regional Climate Centers and others, can be found below.
As noted by the Southeast Regional Climate Center, temperatures were near to below average across much of the Southeast region for the month of January, while precipitation was variable with a few wet and dry extremes reported. The driest locations were found across much of Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Puerto Rico. Monthly precipitation totals ranged from 70 to less than 25 percent of normal across these locations. Sarasota, FL (1918-2022) observed only 0.44 inch (11 mm) of precipitation, more than 2.3 inches (58 mm) below normal, and Juncos, PR (1940-2022) observed its 8th driest January at only 1.2 inches (30 mm) of precipitation. In contrast, the wettest locations for the month were located across eastern North Carolina and Virginia.
Overall drought conditions improved across the Southeast region except in Puerto Rico in January. At the beginning of the month, a swath of severe drought (D2) stretched from northeastern North Carolina southwestward down to South Carolina, with a pocket of severe drought (D2) near the North Carolina/Virginia border. Moderate drought (D1) and abnormally dry conditions (D0) ringed the area of severe drought. By the end of the month, the severe drought (D2) was gone from the region. An area of abnormally dry conditions (D0) with pockets of moderate drought (D1) remained in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and the western part of Alabama. Drought expanded across Puerto Rico for the month, with much of the island in moderate drought (D1) ringed by abnormally dry conditions (D0) and pockets of severe drought (D2) and extreme drought (D3) across the Virgin Islands. Farmers in the citrus growing region of Florida had to run irrigation due to dry conditions. Diminishing forages and snowfall in South Carolina caused some farmers to begin feeding hay.
As explained by the Southern Regional Climate Center, January was on the cool and dry side across most of the Southern region. January 2022 was the first month of winter in the Southern region. Normally, December is the first month of winter, but this past December featured record-setting warmth. In contrast, January 2022 was somewhat cooler than the long-term median, ranking 57th coolest with a region-average temperature of 43.0 F (6.1 C).
Tennessee was wet (5.82 in, or 148 mm, ranked 34th wettest) and Arkansas was close to normal (3.40 in, or 86 mm, ranked 58th wettest), but the remainder of the region was on the dry side. Texas led the way with 0.51 in (13 mm) of precipitation, ranking 14th driest, Oklahoma only had 0.61 in (15 mm) of precipitation, ranking 23rd driest, and Louisiana, despite receiving 2.45 in (62 mm) of precipitation, ranked 15th driest.
Drought conditions generally worsened across the Southern region. Two-category degradations in the USDM were noted in central and south-central Texas, southern Arkansas, and parts of Louisiana and Mississippi near Baton Rouge. In contrast, conditions improved from southeast Texas to central Mississippi and across central Arkansas and western Tennessee. The percentage of the region in drought grew from 54% on December 28 to 70% on February 1, severe drought grew from 30% to 52%, extreme drought grew from 8% to 24%, and exceptional drought emerged in the Oklahoma Panhandle. All states except Tennessee had some extreme drought conditions; in Oklahoma, about half the state was in extreme drought. Primary impacts continue to be with winter wheat, grazing, and wildfire danger, but spring planting will be at risk if the dry weather continues into spring.
As described by the Midwest Regional Climate Center, the Midwest started the new year with widespread colder-than-normal temperatures across the region and drier-than-normal conditions. Average Midwest precipitation was 1.59 inches (40 mm), which was 0.35 inch (9 mm) below the 1991-2020 normal, or 82 percent of normal. Geographically, precipitation amounts varied throughout the region. Drought conditions remained steady in January, with essentially no change in the severity or spatial extent of drought or abnormal dryness during the month. About 15 percent of the region was in moderate (D1) or severe (D2) drought, and all drought conditions were confined to the northwest portion of the region. Minnesota and Wisconsin had the most widespread drought conditions, with small patches of drought present in Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri.
As explained by the Northeast Regional Climate Center, the Northeast's average temperature of 20.6 degrees F (-6.3 degrees C) was 3.5 degrees F (1.9 degrees C) colder than normal, and January precipitation in the Northeast was 2.46 inches (62.48 mm), 75 percent of normal. Nine of the 12 Northeast states were drier than normal, with precipitation for all states ranging from 44 percent of normal in Vermont to 127 percent of normal in West Virginia. The USDM from January 4 showed 1 percent of the Northeast in severe drought, 1 percent in moderate drought, and 13 percent as abnormally dry. Enough precipitation fell during the month to alleviate dryness in West Virginia and portions of Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. Drought and abnormal dryness persisted in far northern New England, which generally saw below- or near-normal precipitation and snowfall during January. The USDM from January 25 showed 1 percent of the Northeast in severe drought, 1 percent in moderate drought, and 9 percent as abnormally dry.
As summarized by the High Plains Regional Climate Center, the majority of the High Plains region was dry for the month of January. Large portions of Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota observed well below normal precipitation. Several snowstorms across southeastern Wyoming, northwestern Kansas, western Nebraska, and eastern Colorado led to above normal precipitation for the area. Dryness was most prevalent across eastern Nebraska, where Norfolk experienced the driest January on record with 0.04 inch (1 mm) of precipitation. In western Colorado, Grand Junction observed the 10th driest month on record, with only 0.14 inch (3.56 mm) of precipitation. Temperatures for the region varied throughout the month, with 2022 starting cold then transitioning to warmer than normal in the middle of the month.
Dryness across the eastern part of the region led to the spread of drought and abnormally dry conditions. Meanwhile, beneficial precipitation improved conditions in the tri-state area of Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming. The region has remained free of exceptional drought (D4) conditions since November of 2021. Drought continued to expand across Kansas during January, with nearly 60 percent of the state now under moderate drought (D1) to D4 conditions. Western North and South Dakota both experienced an increase of severe drought (D2), with conditions rising 5 and 8 percent, respectively. In the USDM, extreme drought (D3) was removed from Nebraska and reduced in Colorado and Wyoming. D1 to D4 conditions were reduced 7 percent in Colorado after the western part of the state experienced much-needed precipitation. Despite the improvements in Colorado and Wyoming, both states remained in abnormally dry (D0) to D4 conditions. Throughout the rest of the region, other improvements and degradations were observed.
As described by the Western Regional Climate Center, January brought a spatial La Niña-like precipitation pattern to the western United States, however precipitation anomalies were shifted towards with the dry side of the spectrum. The northern tier of the Pacific Northwest experienced near-normal precipitation while much drier-than-normal conditions persisted elsewhere. This precipitation pattern resulted from an exceptionally strong ridge of blocking high pressure causing notable poleward displacement of the Pacific storm track. Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana received near-normal precipitation. Olympia, WA observed its 17th wettest January in 75 years of record keeping with 10.8 in. (274 mm) of precipitation (3 in. (75 mm) above average, 138% of average). Many locations in the West, even in mountain regions, measured zero precipitation. In some cases, this marked the first time since records began than an entirely dry January occurred. Locations observing their driest January include: Reno, NV (1.2 in. below average (0 mm), 0% of average; 128 years of records), Winnemucca, NV (1 in. (25 mm) below average, 0% of average, 144 years of records), Fresno, CA (2.2 in. below average (56 mm), 0% of average; 135 years of records), Seligman, AZ, (1.1 in. (28 mm) below average, 0% of average, 102 years of records), and Carlsbad, NM (0.4 in. (10 mm) below average, 0% of average, 77 years of records).
January started with well-above average to near-record snow water equivalent throughout the Sierra Nevada, southern to central Cascades, and the southern interior mountains. Following the extremely dry January with no snowpack accumulation, windy conditions, and above-normal solar radiation and temperatures, snowpacks suffered and dropped to near-normal conditions. Mountains in the central Great Basin and southern Cascades fell to below-normal. With near-normal precipitation, snowpacks in the northern Cascades maintained their climatological accumulation, finishing the month with close to average conditions along the western areas. Drier-than-normal conditions caused interior Rocky Mountain snowpacks to fall to slightly below-normal. Despite the wet start to the water year in many locations, subsequent winter months will need to be wetter than normal to help ameliorate longer-term drought conditions. Drought in the West is overall less severe than at this time in 2021 with less than 20% of the West in extreme to exceptional drought compared to 45% one year ago.
Sea surface temperatures (SST) north of the Hawaiian Islands continue to measure 1.5-3 F (1-1.8 C) above normal. Colder SST anomalies associated with stronger-than-normal trade winds and enhanced equatorial upwelling (signals of La-Niña) also continue to be observed south of the islands. Consistent with the anomalously warm SSTs, temperatures on the Hawaiian Islands also were above normal. Precipitation was varied across the islands. Honolulu (Oahu) received 6.34 in. (161 mm) of precipitation, making January its 14th wettest since record keeping began in 1940 (345% of normal). Yet at Kahului (Maui), only 0.08 in (2 mm) was recorded, the fourth driest January (3% of normal) since observations started in 1905.
Temperatures in Alaska were generally near normal during January, with above normal temperatures being observed in Southcentral Alaska. Precipitation anomalies across Alaska ranged from below normal in the Western and Interior regions whereas Southeast Alaska received well-above normal precipitation. Juneau observed 12.29 in. (312 mm) of precipitation, its wettest January (204% of normal) since records began in 1937. Snowpack also ranged widely at the end of January, with SNOTEL stations in the White Mountains northeast of Fairbanks reporting record values of snow water equivalent but stations in the Kenai Peninsula reporting below median snow water equivalent. North of the Turnagain Arm in the Chugach Mountains, snowpacks were above median. Bering Sea ice extent ended the month above the long-term average and at its highest extent since 2013.