Issued 13 April 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 38% of the contiguous United States as of the end of March 2022, an increase of about 5% from last month. About 2% of the contiguous U.S. fell in the severely to extremely wet categories.
- About 53% of the contiguous U.S. fell in the moderate to extreme drought categories (based on the Palmer Drought Index) at the end of March.
- 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 March 29, 2022, 57.97% of the contiguous U.S. (CONUS) (48.57% 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 March 2022 was very active with several shortwave troughs and closed lows moving through the jet stream flow. They moved through a long-wave pattern that was dominated by a long-wave ridge along the West Coast and trough that stretched from the Great Lakes to the southern Plains, with the hint of a long-wave ridge along and off the Atlantic Coast. The specific location of the long-wave ridge and trough shifted back and forth over the CONUS during the month, with the trough tending to favor the southern Plains. Pacific weather systems were weakened as they moved through the western ridge, but re-energized once they reached the Plains. The northwesterly flow behind the weather systems pulled Canadian air masses into the Plains then eastward to the Atlantic coast. The air masses and upper-level troughs gave the southern Plains, Southwest, and Upper Mississippi Valley a cooler-than-normal month, while predominant ridging resulted in warmer-than-normal monthly temperatures in the Far West and across most of the CONUS east of the Mississippi River. The Pacific weather systems produced rain and snow across parts of the West, resulting in a wetter-than-normal month in some areas, mainly in parts of the Rockies. But the dominant ridging kept most of the West drier than normal, while the dry Canadian air masses and a dominant northwest flow gave most of the Plains a drier-than-normal month. The upper-level troughs and their associated surface lows and fronts tapped Gulf of Mexico moisture to spread above-normal precipitation across parts of the Lower Mississippi Valley, Mid-Mississippi Valley to western Great Lakes, and northern Florida, and they generated bouts of severe weather to go along with the precipitation. But even with this pattern, large swaths in the Southeast and Tennessee Valley to New England lay outside the storm track and ended up drier than normal for March.
As a result of these conditions, drought or abnormal dryness expanded or intensified in parts of the West, across much of the southern and northern Plains, in southern Louisiana and southern Florida, from southern Georgia to coastal North Carolina, and in the Mid-Atlantic states, as well as in parts of Hawaii. Drought or abnormal dryness contracted or was reduced in intensity in northern parts of the Pacific Northwest, parts of the central Plains to Lower Mississippi Valley, western Great Lakes, and northern Florida. Drought contraction exceeded expansion with the USDM-based national moderate-to-exceptional drought footprint across the CONUS decreasing from 59.2 percent at the end of February to 58.0 percent at the end of March (from 49.6 percent to 48.6 percent for the 50 States and Puerto Rico). But the most intense categories of drought (extreme to exceptional) increased in area from 13.3 percent to 17.1 percent for the CONUS (from 11.1 percent to 14.3 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 80 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 53.3 percent of the CONUS was in moderate to extreme drought at the end of March, which is more than the end of February and more than the peak percent area in all of 2021. The last time 50 percent or more of the CONUS was in moderate to extreme drought was during the 2012-2013 drought. The percent area of the CONUS in moderate to extreme drought has hovered between roughly 35 and 53 percent for the last 19 months (since September 2020).
The impacts of the drought can be seen in several indicators, especially in the West, Plains, and Atlantic Coast. These include:
- dry soils (GRACE surface and root zone, VIC, CPC [anomaly, percentile], NLDAS, and Leaky Bucket models; and crop CASMA topsoil and subsoil anomaly, crop CASMA topsoil and subsoil categorical, SPoRT surface and deeper layer, USDA and SMOS observations);
- low ground water levels (GRACE, USGS);
- some low streamflow levels (USGS);
- high evapotranspiration (ESI) (1-, 2-, and 3-month EDDI);
- poor vegetation (VegDRI, VCI); and
- the Quick Drought Response Index (QuickDRI).
- Many reservoir levels were low and falling in western Texas and much of the West (California; Washington; Oregon map 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; Idaho map 1, 2, 3; Southwest map 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9; westwide station percentile and station and basin percent of average map), with many at or near record low levels.
- The weather systems did little to improve western mountain snowpack. Snow water content (SWE) improved slightly in the Rockies and parts of coastal Washington, but continued to decline in western and southern areas. Mountain snowpack in the West was low and steadily declining (percentile and percent of average), especially outside of the Colorado Rockies and Pacific Northwest.
- Numerous large wildfires burned in the southern and central Plains (especially Oklahoma and Texas), along the Gulf Coast states, and in the Appalachians (Kentucky) (wildfire maps for March 1, 5, 18, 25, 26, 30, 31, ). As of April 7, over 17,000 fires had burned over 800,000 acres nationwide; both of these statistics are one and a half times the ten-year average for this time of year.
Drought conditions at the end of March, as depicted on the March 29, 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) and pockets of exceptional (D4) drought. March 2022 continued a pattern of below-normal precipitation that, when combined with January's and February's lack of precipitation resulted in record dry conditions for January-March, especially across California and Nevada and parts of Idaho, Utah, and Montana (low-elevation precipitation anomaly map for January-March; high-elevation SNOTEL basin precipitation anomaly maps for March and October-March; high-elevation SNOTEL station and basin precipitation anomaly maps for March, January-March, and October-March; high-elevation SNOTEL station precipitation percentile maps for March, January-March, and October-March). Westwide, January-March 2022 was the driest January-March period in the 1895-2022 record. As mentioned earlier, mountain snowpack was significantly below normal at the end of March, with much of the West worse off than at the end of February and many mountain locations at or near record low SWE values for the end of March. The percent area of the West experiencing moderate to exceptional drought, according to USDM statistics, decreased slightly from 90.4 percent at the end of February to 88.9 percent at the end of March. However, the percent area of the West (from the Rockies to the West Coast) in moderate to extreme drought (based on the Palmer Drought Index) continued its rebound, reaching 94.5 percent at the end of March 2022, slightly more than the 94.4 percent peak of September 1934 and second only to the max of 98.8 percent set in June last year.
- The central to northern Plains experienced expanding or intensifying drought in many areas (especially Nebraska and the Dakotas) and contracting or less intense drought in other (southern) areas. Drought mostly expanded or intensified in the southern Plains and contracted in the Lower Mississippi Valley, although some contraction occurred in the southern Plains (mostly Oklahoma) and intensification occurred in the Lower Mississippi Valley (southern Louisiana). Exceptional drought expanded in the southern Plains. For the central to northern Plains, the moderate to extreme drought area decreased slightly from 79.3 percent at the end of February to 77.9 percent at the end of March. In the southern Plains, moderate to exceptional drought grew from 83.2 percent at the end of February to 85.7 percent at the end of March. In the Lower Mississippi Valley, moderate to extreme drought fell from 62.5 percent at the end of February to 55.0 percent at the end of March. Taken together, the southern Plains and Lower Mississippi Valley (South Region) saw moderate to exceptional drought increase from 67.8 percent at the end of February to 68.5 percent at the end of March.
- Moderate to severe drought continued in the Midwest, with the drought area shrinking from 19.3 percent at the end of February to 10.2 percent at the end of March.
- In the Northeast, moderate to severe drought shrank slightly but persisted in northern New England, while moderate drought developed in southern portions of the region. The regional drought area increased slightly from 2.0 percent at the end of February to 3.1 percent at the end of March.
- A mixed precipitation anomaly pattern in the Southeast this month resulted in bands of expansion alternating with contraction. There was more expansion than contraction, so the drought area grew from 13.3 percent at the end of February to 19.7 percent at the end of March.
- In Hawaii, contraction occurred mainly on western islands while expansion occurred mainly on eastern islands. The statewide moderate to extreme drought area shrank slightly from 79.2 percent at the end of February to 78.7 percent at the end of March.
- In the Caribbean, moderate drought continued to cover 4.7 percent of Puerto Rico, while in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), extreme drought improved to moderate drought on St. Thomas, severe drought continued on St. Croix, and moderate drought continued on St. John.
In the U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands (USAPI), compared to last month:
- extreme drought continued at Wotje, drought and abnormal dryness ended at the islands south of Wotje in the Marshall Islands;
- severe drought improved to moderate drought at Fananu, drought ended on Woleai and at Chuuk Lagoon, and abnormal dryness developed at Kapingamarangi, Ulithi, and Yap (Federated States of Micronesia); and
- moderate drought developed on Guam while abnormal dryness continued on Saipan and Rota (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 parts of the Plains, expanding or intensifying long-term drought; from the Tennessee Valley to southern New England, decreasing long-term wet spell conditions; and over southern Florida and parts of the coastal Southeast, where little change in long-term drought conditions was evident (PHDI maps for March compared to February). Short-term wet conditions from the Mid-Mississippi Valley to western Great Lakes, and over parts of the Lower Mississippi Valley, decreased long-term drought conditions.
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 West at the 2-, 3-, and 12-month time scales, a large part of the West at the 1-, 6-, and 9-month time scales, and almost all of the West at the 24-month time scale. The northern and southern Plains were dry at the 1- to 3-month time scales; much of the southern Plains and part of the central Plains were dry at 6 and 9 months; the central Plains were dry at 12 months; and the northern, central, and western portions of the southern Plains were dry at the 24-month time scale. The central Appalachians were dry at the 1-month time scale, with dryness extending into the coastal Mid-Atlantic and southern portions of the Northeast at 1 to 6 months. Parts of the Southeast to Mid-Atlantic coast were dry at 1 to 12 months. Southern Florida was dry at 1 to 2 months. Northern New England was dry at 24 months. Wet conditions dominate the northern Plains at 6 months, coastal Washington at 6 to 9 months, parts of the Northeast at 2- and 6- to 24-month time scales, the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys at 2 to 24 months, parts of the Great Lakes at all time scales, and parts to most of the Gulf Coast at 12 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 and Great Lakes.
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, March is the beginning of climatological spring, which is the transition season from the time of year when evapotranspiration is minimal to when it is maximum. During March 2022, temperatures were much above normal along the East and West Coasts, but near to cooler than normal in between (especially in the Southwest to central and southern Plains, and Upper Mississippi Valley). The last two to three months had much warmer than normal temperatures along the East Coast (February-March) and West Coast (especially January-March). The southern Plains were much warmer than normal in December and much of the country was much warmer than normal in November. These warm months have combined to give much of the CONUS a warmer-than-normal October-March 6-month period. The mixture of warm and cold anomalies have resulted in similar patterns of anomalies of similar magnitude for the SPEI and SPI for March and February-March. At the 3-month time scale, the SPEI has drier values in parts of the Plains than the SPI. January-March 2022 was record dry in the West, so the SPEI and SPI values are of similar magnitude in the Far West in spite of the excessive warmth. California had both a record dry SPEI and record dry SPI for January-March. The patterns were similar at the 5- and 6-month time scales as well (SPEI maps for last 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 months) (SPI maps for last 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 months).
Both Nevada and Oregon had record dry SPEI values for April 2021-March 2022 while the SPI values were not record dry.
Much of the West has been excessively warm for the last 10 to 30 years, with the last 12 months being the second warmest April-March on record. The region has also been persistently drier than the long-term average. The combination of above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation has resulted in SPEI values in the West that are consistently more severe than the corresponding SPI values at the 1- to 6-year time scales (SPEI maps for last 12, 18, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72 months) (SPI maps for last 12, 18, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72 months).
Both Idaho and Oregon had record dry SPEI values for the 24-month period (April 2020-March 2022) while the SPI values were not record dry.
As mentioned earlier, January through March 2022 has been extremely dry across much of the West (from the Rockies to the West Coast). Regionwide, March 2022 ranked as the tenth driest March in the 1895-2022 record, but both February-March and January-March 2022 ranked as the driest such periods on record. Going back in time, the above-normal precipitation in October and December 2021 reduced the dryness some for longer time scales, with October 2021-March 2022 ranking 17th driest for the 6-month period and April 2021-March 2022 ranking seventh driest for the 12-month period. But when the dryness of April 2020-March 2021 is included, April 2020-March 2022 ranks as the driest such 24-month period on record. The PHDI, integrated across the West, shows the region has been in drought for most of the time since January 2000. The regional PHDI value for March 2022 was exceeded only last summer and during 1977 (which had the driest PHDI in the West's regionwide record).
March 2022 was drier and warmer than normal across Hawaii. Drier-than-normal conditions were widespread across the state for the last 2 to 3 months. A wet December 2021 resulted in mixed precipitation anomaly pattern at the 4-month time scale. At 6 to 12 months, there were still wetter-than-normal areas on the Big Island and Oahu, but drier-than-normal conditions dominated on Maui, Molokai, and Kauai. At longer time scales, a mixed anomaly pattern was evident with wetter-than-normal conditions dominating the further out in time (last 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 12, 24, 36, 48, 60 months) (climate engine model percent of normal precipitation map for the last month). Monthly streamflow was below normal at most streams across the islands. Contraction of drought or abnormal dryness occurred on Kauai and Oahu, while intensification happened on Oahu to the Big Island. The overall drought footprint shrank slightly to 78.7 percent on the March 29th USDM map. Drought impacts included:
- satellite data and rancher reports indicate extremely poor pasture and forage conditions;
- herds are being reduced as a result of the dry start to 2022, with many folks now resulting to supplemental feeding of livestock;
- vegetation indices continued to decline;
- in Maui, the Department of Water Supply has asked the public to reduce water consumption due to the low stream flows; and
- ecological anomalies have also been observed, such as animal encroachments, due to lack of soil moisture leading to reduced forage.
March 2022 was drier than normal across the northern half of Alaska and wetter than normal in southern locations. This precipitation anomaly pattern held for the last 2 to 3 months, with the wetter-than-normal area expanding and its anomalies increasing. Wetter-than-normal conditions dominated the state beginning at 4 months, except in parts of the Aleutian chain, Cook Inlet, and Northwest Gulf regions. This anomaly pattern persisted through the 4- to 36-month time scales, with drier-than-normal stations extending into the panhandle at longer time scales (low elevation station precipitation anomaly maps for the last 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 12, 24, 36, 48, 60 months) (high elevation SNOTEL station precipitation percentile map for the last 1, 3, and 6 months) (high elevation SNOTEL station precipitation anomaly maps for March 2022 and October 2021-March 2022) (SNOTEL basin precipitation anomaly map for October 2021-March 2022) (SNOTEL basin and station precipitation anomaly maps for the last 1, 3, and 6 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).
March temperatures were warmer than normal across most of the state. The last 2 to 4 months saw near- to cooler-than-normal temperatures in northern sections and warmer-than-normal in southern sections. At the 6- to 12-month time scales, near to cooler-than-normal temperatures dominated except in the far Aleutians which were warmer than normal (low elevation station temperature anomaly maps for the last 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 12 months) (climate division temperature rank maps for the last 1, 3, 6, and 12 months) (Leaky Bucket model temperature percentile map). End-of-March satellite-based and SNOTEL station and basin observations of snow water equivalent (SWE) in snowpack was mostly near to above normal with some below-normal locations.
Modeled soil moisture and experimental satellite-based observations of soil moisture (GRACE root zone and surface soil moisture; and SPoRT percentiles for 0-10 cm [0-4 inches] depth, 0-40 cm [0-16 inches] depth, 0-100 cm [0-39 inches] depth, 0-200 cm [0-79 inches] depth) and groundwater showed drier-than-normal conditions in some areas, although the ground is likely still frozen across most of Alaska at this time of year. Monthly streamflow (for those streams that were not frozen) was mostly near to above normal with some below-normal streams in the Cook Inlet area. There was no drought or abnormal dryness in Alaska on the March 29th USDM map.
Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands
March 2022 had a mixed precipitation anomaly pattern across Puerto Rico (PR) and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). A wet February resulted in widespread above-normal precipitation at the 2- to 4-month time scales. The USVI and much of PR were drier than normal at the 6- to 48-month time scales, with a wetter-than-normal pattern prevailing at 60 months (radar-based precipitation anomaly estimates for the last 1, 2, 3, 6, 12 months) (low elevation station precipitation maps for the last 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 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 northwestern coasts and some 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 near normal across most of PR. In the USVI, groundwater during March generally held steady on St. Thomas but continued to decline on St. John and St. Croix. The groundwater level on St. Croix in March reached a new record low value compared to the 2016-2022 record. The March values at St. John and St. Thomas were very low but had not reached record low values based on the 2016-2022 period, although the St. John value was the lowest since 2017. Moderate drought continued to cover 4.7 percent of PR on the March 29th USDM map, while in the USVI, extreme drought improved to moderate drought on St. Thomas, severe drought continued on St. Croix, and moderate drought continued on St. John.
According to reports provided by the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), areas in southern PR were experiencing dry conditions, with some impacts on crops and livestock. Dry pastures have led some ranchers to turn to hay and supplements to nourish cattle. In the USVI, vegetation and trees were still showing signs of distress. Livestock farmers and horse ranchers were buying hay. The vegetation was not bouncing back due to a lack of moisture in the soil. Ponds and collection containers have not been fully recharged. Some details:
- Specialty and row crop farmers on St. Thomas were reporting that greens, including lemongrass, kale, and peppers, were burning due to heat, and orchards that require more water were only being watered every other day. Most of the farmers were employing conservation methods including increasing the use of drip irrigation methods and were also working to increase the storage capacity of water.
- On St. John, farmers were reporting that they were watering both early and late to conserve water. Many were using mulch to help retain water in the soil. Farmers were implementing immediate conservation methods including crop rotation and alternating watering schedules to maximize water resources. Farmers also indicated that the need for increased irrigation and Smart Technology will help them to combat drought and potentially to increase production.
- Farmers on St. Croix who have been purchasing water were concerned due to the high economic impacts of costs related to water. Farmers of all sizes were reporting sporadic rain that has perked vegetation but that hot, dry weather was still affecting their ability to retain soil moisture. One producer reported purchasing 12,000 gallons of water per week, which will cause further economic distress if drought continues. Long-term drought indicators were creating an urgent need for irrigation systems to be deployed in the fields. Poultry farmers were reporting increased purchases for water in cisterns and decreased egg production due to heat. The VI Department of Agriculture (VIDA) also reported that, in St. Croix, 1,312,707 gallons of water were delivered to the agricultural community in February, and 1,041,290 gallons were delivered in March. VIDA also reported that both horse and livestock ranchers were procuring hay at this time. To address the economic impacts of feed, and as drought conditions continue, livestock farmers were also planning mitigation efforts to continue to rotate livestock to feed them.
CONUS State Precipitation Ranks
March 2022 was drier than normal across most of the West and Great Plains, and in swaths from the Tennessee Valley to southern New England, along the Gulf of Mexico to Southeast (Atlantic) Coast, and in southern Florida. Record-dry conditions occurred locally in Trans Pecos Texas and in North Dakota. Twenty states had a precipitation rank in the driest third of the 128-year historical record for March, including North Dakota which ranked seventh driest.
January-March 2022 was drier than normal across most of the West and Great Plains, and along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts, with record-dry conditions occurring locally in the Plains and Pacific Northwest and across a large part of California and Nevada. Twenty states had a precipitation rank in the driest third of the 1895-2022 historical record for January-March, including eight in the top ten driest category — California and Nevada (both driest on record), South Dakota (second driest), Utah (fourth driest), Idaho (fifth driest), Nebraska and Wyoming (both seventh driest), and Oregon (eighth driest).
October 2021-March 2022 was drier than normal across much of the West, Great Plains, Gulf of Mexico Coast, and Atlantic Coast. Nineteen states had a precipitation rank in the driest third of the historical record, including three in the top ten driest category — Louisiana (sixth driest), Delaware (eighth driest), and Maryland (tenth driest).
April 2021-March 2022 was drier than normal across most of the West, Great Plains, Upper Mississippi Valley, and Mid-Atlantic Coast from South Carolina to Delaware. Nineteen states had a precipitation rank in the driest third of the historical record, including three in the top ten driest category — California (fifth driest), Oregon (sixth driest), and Montana (eighth driest).
During March 2022, the Primary Hard Red Winter Wheat agricultural belt was cooler than average with some areas drier than average and other areas wetter than average. The month ranked as the 56th warmest and 58th wettest March, regionwide, in the 1895-2022 record.
October marks the beginning of the growing season for the Primary Hard Red Winter Wheat belt. October 2021-March 2022 was warmer and mostly drier than normal. The period ranked as the ninth warmest and 28th driest October-March, regionwide, on record.
March also marks the beginning of the growing season for the Primary Corn and Soybean agricultural belt. March 2022 had a mixed temperature and precipitation anomaly pattern. The month ranked as the 39th warmest and 44th wettest March, regionwide, in the 1895-2022 record.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as of March 29, 2022, drought affected approximately 90 percent of sorghum production, 73 percent of barley production, 69 percent of winter wheat production, 68 percent of the sheep inventory, 62 percent of cotton production, 61 percent of the cattle inventory, 51 percent of the milk cow inventory, 49 percent of hay acreage, 46 percent of spring wheat production, 45 percent of rice production, 33 percent of corn production, and 23 percent of soybean production. Based on April 3 USDA statistics, 36 percent of the nation's winter wheat was in poor to very poor condition, and 37 percent of the topsoil and 42 percent of the subsoil were short or very short of moisture (dry or very dry). Texas led the pack with 81 percent of winter wheat in poor to very poor condition, followed by Oklahoma (44%), Colorado (39%), Montana (37%), Illinois (31%), and Kansas (30%). The states having the driest topsoils were in the Plains to Rockies, Pacific Northwest, and Great Basin, with nearly all (96%) of the topsoil moisture short or very short in Montana, and New Mexico (88%), Nebraska (81%), and Texas (80%) each at 80 percent or higher.
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), March 2022 was drier-than-normal in the southern parts of the FSM, northern RMI, and American Samoa. It was near to wetter than normal across Palau, the Marianas, southern RMI, and most 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) in the southern Marianas, northern RMI, and extreme western, northern, and southern portions of the FSM. March 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.
The tropical Pacific climatology can experience extremes in precipitation, from very low precipitation during the dry season to very high precipitation during the wet season. This can result in monthly normal precipitation values that are different from the monthly minimum needed to meet most water needs, and this can lead to percent of normal values that seem odd. This was the case during March 2022, which is in the dry season for most locations in Micronesia. Precipitation was below the monthly minimum but above normal (1981-2010 normal), because the normals are low, at:
- Guam: March 2022 precipitation 2.28 inches, March normal mean 2.77 inches, March normal median 2.07 inches
- Yap: March 2022 precipitation 7.23 inches, March normal mean 5.34 inches, March normal median 4.56 inches
- Ulithi: March 2022 precipitation 4.89 inches, March normal mean 4.65 inches
At some stations, the dry season is not as pronounced or, for Pago Pago, this is the wet season, so the normal monthly precipitation is above the monthly minimum. Precipitation was above the monthly minimum but below normal at:
- Pago Pago: March 2022 precipitation 5.40 inches, March normal mean 11.66 inches, March normal median 10.68 inches
In the table below, the station identified as Koror is Palau International Airport (Airai).
As measured by percent of normal precipitation, Kapingamarangi and Pago Pago were drier than normal in the short term (March and the last 3 months [January-March 2022]) and long term (last 12 months [April 2021-March 2022]). Lukunor was slightly drier than normal at the 3- and 12-month time scales but wetter than normal for March. Chuuk and Guam were drier than normal at the 3-month time scale but near to wetter than normal at the other 2 time scales. Airai, Kosrae, Kwajalein, Majuro, Pohnpei, Saipan, and Yap were near to wetter than normal at all 3 time scales.
Based on percent of normal average (instead of normal median values), in the Marianas Islands, precipitation during March was below normal at some stations and above normal at others, while temperatures were generally warmer than normal. The southern islands were drier than normal and the northern islands wetter than normal at the 2- to 4-month time scales. Wetter-than-normal conditions dominated at the 6-month time scale, then transitioned to a mixed precipitation anomaly pattern at longer time scales with drier-than-normal conditions dominating at the 24- to 36-month time scales (percent of normal precipitation maps for the last 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 12, 24, 36, 48, 60 months).
Based on percent of normal average (instead of normal median values), in the Marshall Islands, precipitation during March was below normal in the northeast region (Wotje) but above normal elsewhere. This anomaly pattern held for the 2- to 6-month time scales, with drier-than-normal conditions across the northern and northwestern regions at 9 to 12 months. The anomaly pattern became mixed at longer time scales (percent of normal precipitation maps for the last 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 12, 24, 36, 48, 60 months).
According to the March 31st USDM produced for the USAPI, extreme drought continued at Wotje, but drought and abnormal dryness ended at the islands south of Wotje in the RMI; severe drought improved to moderate drought at Fananu, drought ended on Woleai and at Chuuk Lagoon, and abnormal dryness developed at Kapingamarangi, Ulithi, and Yap (in the FSM); and, in the Marianas, moderate drought developed on Guam while abnormal dryness continued on Saipan and Rota. The rest of the USAPI stations were free of drought and abnormal dryness.
- Beneficial rains occurred in the northern Marshalls during March but most catchments were still very low late in the month. Some wells were salty. Groundwater was being utilized for cooking, drinking, washing and bathing but recent rains may have filled some catchments adequately. Vegetation was still brown with some plants absent of leaves. Some fruits were dropping prematurely. Some islands have reverse osmosis units, but many were still inoperable. The Marshall Islands National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) supplied new batteries for Wotje's reverse osmosis unit in February. The NDMO's Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Cluster continued to survey the northern islands and focus attention to islands most in need.
- In northern Chuuk State (Fananu-Hall Islands & Onoun-Namonuitos), water tank levels on Fananu continued to improve with the March rain. Well water was likely still brackish and crops/vegetation still showed signs of stress. Residents on the island continued to conserve water.
Abundant rainfall improved March precipitation ranks, but a few were still in the top 5 and top 10 driest category:
- Wotje: This is normally a dry time of year, so the 2.55 inches of rain that fell in March 2022 ranked the month as the eighth wettest March in the 39-year record. But January-March 2022 still ranked as the third driest January-March, December-March ranked fourth driest, and April-March seventh driest.
- Kapingamarangi: fifth driest March (in a 32-year record), October-March, and September-March; third driest August-March; and second driest May-March (in 17 years of data).
- Pago Pago: sixth driest March (56 years of data).
At the wet end of the scale, Kosrae had the wettest March in a 52-year record and it was the second wettest March at Pingelap, Ailinglaplap, Jaluit, and Mili.
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 March 2022, October 2021-March 2022 (last 6 months), and April 2021-March 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||March 2022||Oct 2021-Mar 2022||Apr 2021-Mar 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 above average across much of the Southeast region for the month of March while precipitation was variable across much the region, with a few wet and dry extremes reported. The driest locations were found across southern Florida, eastern Georgia, eastern South Carolina, and eastern North Carolina. Monthly precipitation totals ranged from 70 to less than 25 percent of normal across these locations. Fort Myers, FL (1902-2022) observed only 0.43 inch (11 mm) of precipitation, more than 1.5 inches (38 mm) below normal. In contrast, the wettest locations for the month were located across Puerto Rico, Alabama and northern Florida.
Drought conditions slightly intensified across the Southeast region, except for Puerto Rico, in March. At the beginning of the month, an area of moderate drought (D1) stretched across eastern North Carolina down into eastern Georgia and connected with an expanded area of moderate drought in northern Florida. Abnormally dry conditions (D0) ringed these areas as well and included most of the Florida Peninsula. By the end of the month, drought conditions improved across northern Florida, but expanded throughout southern Georgia. A pocket of severe drought (D2) developed along the North Carolina coast and abnormally dry conditions expanded throughout northern Virginia. Drought conditions remained the same across Puerto Rico for the month, with pockets of moderate drought (D1) ringed by an area of abnormally dry conditions (D0) in the southern part of the Island. There were areas of moderate drought (D1) to severe drought (D2) across the Virgin Islands. Farmers in the citrus growing region of Florida had to run irrigation due to dry conditions, but rainfall in the northern part of Florida benefited newly-planted crops. Despite the dry conditions in over half of South Carolina, positive pasture growth helped keep livestock conditions good, while limiting the amount of supplemental hay needed.
As explained by the Southern Regional Climate Center, drought intensified in Texas during March 2022, and wildfire and severe weather affected much of the region. March 2022 temperatures across the Southern region were generally warmer than the long-term average, but cooler than the most recent three-decade period, 1991-2020. The region-wide precipitation was close to the long-term mean, but that statistic masked large variations across the region. Both Texas and Tennessee were relatively dry: Texas was 42nd driest, at 1.20 inches, while Tennessee was 48th driest, at 4.57 inches. In contrast, Mississippi was 35th wettest, at 6.89 inches, and Louisiana was 40th wettest, at 5.75 inches.
Drought conditions continued to get worse in the Southern region. Over 68% of the region was in drought on March 29, about the same as at the beginning of the month, but extreme or worse drought expanded from 21% to 29% and exceptional drought expanded from 0.4% to 5%. The worst drought was in Texas, with 88% of the state in drought, 71% in at least severe drought, 42% in at least extreme drought, and 7% in exceptional drought. Oklahoma had 34% in at least extreme drought and Louisiana had 31% in at least extreme drought. The primary impacts from the drought so far are agricultural, with most of the winter wheat crop in Texas and Oklahoma rated poor to very poor, ranchers still providing supplemental feed, and spring planting off to a difficult start. The dry weather has developed mostly over the past several months; the combination of dry conditions now and wet conditions during the first half of 2021 have led to an enhanced risk of wildfire, with several large fires during March.
As described by the Midwest Regional Climate Center, the average temperature for the Midwest was 36.7 degrees F (2.6 degrees C) for March, which was 0.2 degrees F (0.1 degrees C) below the 1991-2020 normal. Average Midwest precipitation for March was 3.26 inches (83 mm), which was 0.69 inch (18 mm) above normal, or 127 percent of normal. Precipitation was above normal for most of the Midwest, except for the extreme northwestern and southeastern portions of the region.
Drought conditions in the Midwest improved throughout March with reductions in both the intensity and spatial extent. By month's end, 10 percent of the region was in moderate (D1) or severe (D2) drought with 19 percent abnormally dry. Drought and dry conditions were confined to the northwest portion of the Midwest with the largest affected area centered over southern Wisconsin.
As explained by the Northeast Regional Climate Center, March was warmer than normal and generally drier than normal in the Northeast. The region received 2.91 inches of precipitation, which was 82 percent of normal. The USDM from March 1 showed one percent of the Northeast in severe drought, one percent in moderate drought, and 16 percent as abnormally dry. During March, areas of drought and abnormal dryness were trimmed in northern New England due to near- to above-normal precipitation, decent snowpack, and improving streamflow and groundwater levels. However, moderate drought was introduced and abnormal dryness persisted or expanded in southern parts of the Northeast where short-term precipitation deficits led to declining streamflow and soil moisture. The USDM from March 29 showed one percent of the Northeast in severe drought, one percent in moderate drought, and 25 percent as abnormally dry.
As summarized by the High Plains Regional Climate Center, temperatures were near normal regionwide for the month of March, with pockets of above- and below-normal temperatures. Precipitation was well below normal again in Nebraska and the Dakotas in March. Pockets of above-normal precipitation were present in eastern Colorado, eastern Kansas, southeastern Nebraska, and parts of Wyoming. The precipitation observed at these locations helped alleviate drought conditions, but deficits remain.
The persistent dryness that has plagued parts of the region continued into March. Conditions rapidly deteriorated across the western parts of Nebraska and South Dakota, while drought intensified in western Kansas. All three states ended the month with 45 percent of each state in severe drought (D2). Exceptional Drought (D4) was reintroduced to the region for the first time since November of 2021. Long-term dryness led to the expansion of D4 into southwestern Kansas and the slight expansion over the course of the month. Another dry month in Nebraska led to a 20 percent increase to severe drought (D2) and the introduction of extreme drought (D3) in the north-central part of the state. Drought conditions also intensified in South Dakota, with 46 percent of the state now experiencing D2. Despite the dryness plaguing the region, some areas received above normal precipitation which led to improvements. Beneficial precipitation in eastern Colorado eased conditions and led to a 24 percent reduction of D2 area coverage for the state. In eastern Kansas, abnormally dry conditions were significantly reduced. Throughout the rest of the region, other improvements and degradations were observed.
In preparation for the continuation of the drought, cattle herds were being culled in Nebraska. Feedlots in the state were now near-record numbers, which is unusual for this time of the year. Repercussions from the drought of 2021 were becoming noticeable in North Dakota. Many cattle producers within the state rely on water from surface water sources such as stock ponds. These water sources were dried up or contained substances toxic to livestock during the drought of previous years. As a result of the lack of snowpack this winter for recharge or the dilution of toxic substances, there were concerns about the availability of water this year. Ranchers within the state have been encouraged to find other sources of water to reduce the potential for issues this year. Another side effect of the dryness across the region was the increased risk of wildfires. Optimal conditions for wildfires across western Kansas throughout the month led the governor to declare a state of disaster. Several large fires broke out in the southern part of the state, with the largest reported to the northwest of Wichita. Fires were also reported in Colorado, Nebraska, and South Dakota in the month of March.
As described by the Western Regional Climate Center, the trend of dry and warm conditions observed during the past several months continued through March for California, the Great Basin, and parts of the Northern Rockies with below-normal precipitation and above-normal temperatures; record dryness was found in these areas when considering the January-March 2022 period which led to an expansion of drought conditions. More active weather was found in the Four Corners states with some areas seeing above-normal precipitation and below-normal temperatures.
The above-normal temperatures were widespread throughout the West Coast states and further inland into Idaho and Montana with anomalies in the range of +2 to +4 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Below-normal precipitation was found generally in the same regions that experienced above-normal temperatures with the driest anomalies (5-50 percent of normal) in California, western Nevada, southern Oregon, southern Idaho, and eastern Montana. Dillon, Montana recorded 0.03 inch (0.76 millimeters), six percent of normal, for the second driest March on record since 1940. Burley, Idaho logged 0.10 inch (2.54 millimeters), ten percent of normal, making it the third driest since 1949. Reno, Nevada received 0.03 inch (0.76 millimeters), four percent of normal, coming in at the fourth driest on record since 1937. San Francisco, California recorded 0.48 inch (12.19 millimeters), 15 percent of normal, for the 13th driest dating all the way back to 1850. Scattered areas of above-normal precipitation were found in western Washington, northern Idaho, northwest Montana, central Nevada, northeast Arizona, and central New Mexico.
According to the USDM, at the end of March 89 percent of the West was in drought with 30 percent of the West in extreme (D3) or exceptional (D4) drought. The dry and warm March, combined with the poor snowpack conditions, led to drought expansion during March in parts of California, Oregon, Idaho, southwest Montana, Utah, and New Mexico. Drought improvements were found in northern Oregon, Washington, northern Idaho, and northwest Montana.
Above-normal temperatures were found nearly everywhere in Alaska with the greatest warm anomalies of about 5-7 degrees Fahrenheit above normal in the southcentral, western, and southwestern parts of the state. Precipitation was below normal throughout the Hawaiian Islands with parts of Oahu, Molokai, Maui, and the Big Island seeing less than 50 percent of normal for the month. Kahului received 0.19 inch (4.83 millimeters), seven percent of normal, making it the fifth driest on record dating back to 1905. Hilo logged 4.31 inches (109 millimeters), 34 percent of normal, for the 12th driest on record. Temperatures were above normal across the entire region with Hilo seeing its warmest on record at 75.1 degrees Fahrenheit (23.9 degrees Celsius), +3.2 degrees Fahrenheit (+1.7 degrees Celsius) above normal. The warm and dry conditions led to expansion of drought with up to two category degradations in the USDM with 74 percent of Hawaii in moderate drought (D1) or worse.