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This Global Drought Narrative is based on global drought indicators available at the Global Drought Information System, and media reports summarized by the National Drought Mitigation Center.

Global Drought Overview

Overview: Beneficial precipitation fell across some of the world's drought areas during September 2023, but dry and hot conditions dominated the continents. It was a record-warm September for Europe, Africa, North America, and South America, with Asia having the second warmest September and Australia the third warmest. For many continents, record heat extended back several months, increasing evapotranspiration which exacerbated drought in the dry areas and, in some cases, countering beneficial precipitation. It continued dry over drought-plagued parts of the Americas, Africa, Australia, the Indian subcontinent, Europe, and western Russia. As noted by the University of Maryland, the ongoing El Niño dominates the rainfall anomaly patterns over many of the dry areas — from the eastern Indian Ocean, across the tropical Pacific and into Central America and northern South America. A significant portion of the world's agricultural lands was still suffering from low soil moisture and groundwater levels, and satellite observations showed stressed vegetation on all continents. The GEOGLAM Crop Monitor indicated that agriculture was most threatened in parts of the Americas, East Africa, southern Asia, and parts of Australia. The Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWSNet) revealed significant food insecurity continuing in parts of Central and South America, Southwest Asia, and much of Africa.

Europe

Most of Europe was drier than normal during September 2023, with only the Iberian Peninsula, British Isles, and Scandinavia wetter than normal. Temperatures were warmer than normal across the continent, making September 2023 the warmest September, continent-wide, in the 1910-2023 NOAA/NCEI record. The warm anomalies have been persistent throughout the summer, giving Europe the warmest August-September, July-September, and June-September. The excessive heat has increased evapotranspiration, making drought conditions worse. The Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) integrates the effect of precipitation and temperature. The SPEI shows that much of southern and eastern Europe has been dry for the last 2 to 3 months, with most of the continent from the Iberian Peninsula to the Baltic Sea drier than normal at time periods from 6 months to the last 4 years. Soils continued dry from Portugal to northern Europe, with the satellite-based (GRACE) indicator of groundwater revealing low groundwater across most of Europe. Satellite observations of vegetative health (Vegetative Health Index, VHI) revealed stressed vegetation over parts of France, the British Isles, and Scandinavia. The European Combined Drought Indicator showed some level of drought from France to Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, with 30.5% of the EU-27 territory in Drought Watch, Warning, or Alert conditions, which is more than last month.

According to media reports, Spain's food and drink industry made a rare call for the government to grant it priority access to water amid a drought that's threatening food supplies in the southern European country. The two-year drought and record heat have cut Spain's olive crop in half — doubling olive oil prices; climate change is expected to continue to drive prices up. The skyrocketing olive oil prices have led to a spate of thefts of bulk olive oil in the country. The Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) noted that, due to below-average early summer precipitation, trees were turning brown earlier in the Jura mountains and on the western side of the Central Plateau.

Asia

September was drier than normal across large swaths of Asia, from western Russia to central Asia and from Southwest Asia to parts of China. Much of the continent was warmer than normal, with September 2023 ranking as the second warmest September in the NOAA/NCEI record. The anomalous warmth increased evapotranspiration across much of Asia, especially in Russia and northern China, according to the Evaporative Stress Index (ESI). Excessive warmth characterized much of the summer, with the last 2 to 4 months ranking as the warmest such periods on record, continent-wide. According to the SPEI, drought plagued Southwest Asia and parts of India, Russia, Southeast Asia, and northern China at every time scale from the last 2 months to 4 years. The lack of precipitation and high evaporation dried soils in these areas, as seen on satellite-based products (GRACE), and groundwater levels were significantly lowered (GRACE). Satellite observations (VHI) revealed poor vegetative health from Southwest Asia to northern China and Mongolia. Drought conditions were confirmed over northern, eastern, and coastal southwestern parts of India on the India Drought Monitor, covering about 21.6% of the nation, which is about the same as last month. Some short- or long-term drought was indicated on some of the islands in the Southwest Pacific on the NIWA Island Climate Update maps, with more extensive drought at the longer time periods.

According to media reports (Radio Free Europe), hot, dry weather in southern Kazakhstan has ruined crops, limited pasture and the production of animal fodder as irrigation supplies dwindled; some were opting to slaughter livestock for lack of affordable animal feed. Reuters reported that, in Turkey, cattle now graze and sunflowers grow in the dried lakebed of the Terkos Dam outside Istanbul, where a drought this year has reduced water levels in the reservoirs of Turkey's largest city to their lowest in nearly a decade. "In the 11 months to September, Turkey's northwest received 23% less precipitation than average, according to the Turkish State Meteorological Service. In August alone, it was 74% lower than average, and down 90% from last year." The Daily Sabah added that, with the impending drought crisis threatening Istanbul's water supply throughout the fall and winter, preparations are now underway to extract water from the depths of dams. The Hindu media organization reported that, in view of drought and distress caused to the farming community in Karnataka, in southwestern India, the State Government has decided to scale down this year's Dasara celebrations. The 10-day-long Dasara festival is the showpiece event in the cultural calendar of Karnataka.

Africa

September continued dry across much of the Mediterranean coast (the Maghreb region) of Africa, as well as northwest, eastern (Horn of Africa), western equatorial, and southeast parts of the continent. Most of the continent was warmer than normal, with September 2023 ranking as the warmest September continent-wide in the 1910-2023 NOAA/NCEI record; record heat continent-wide extended over the last 8 months (February-September), with the year to date being the second warmest January-September. The excessive warmth increased evapotranspiration, as seen on the ESI. The SPEI revealed dryness in these northern, eastern, and southern areas, with the area expanding as the time scales lengthened. Satellite (GRACE) observations revealed persistent low soil moisture and groundwater in the Maghreb and adjacent northern regions, over parts of the Horn of Africa, and parts of central to southern Africa, with the worst conditions in the north and east. Satellite observations of vegetative health (VHI) revealed stressed vegetation over the Maghreb region and much of the Horn of Africa, and southern Africa. An analysis by the African Flood and Drought Monitor estimated 22% of the continent in drought at the end of September, which is about the same as last month.

According to state media reports, Morocco's importation of live animals intended for consumption has surged fivefold since the start of the year, as the nation seeks to stabilize meat prices and ensure a steady supply in preparation for Eid al-Adha, the annual festival of sacrifice. The Associated Press reported that France is sending military forces to distribute water on the French Indian Ocean territory of Mayotte, off the southeastern Africa coast, which is facing an unprecedented water crisis prompted by the island cluster's most severe drought in decades. Reuters noted that maintenance issues and climate change-induced water shortages have caused a 400-megawatt electricity shortfall in Tanzania, triggering power rationing across the East African nation; reduced water levels at hydropower dams contributed to the shortfall.

Australia

Like last month, most of Australia was drier than normal during September 2023, with unusually hot temperatures. According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the continent had the driest and third warmest September on record. Temperature records began in 1910, and precipitation records began in 1900. The hot temperatures increased evapotranspiration, especially in the western and eastern areas, as seen on the ESI map. The SPEI showed dry conditions across the continent, except in the north-central region, for the last 1 to 9 months. Normal to wet conditions dominate at 12 to 36 months, with dryness from the west to northeast at 48 months. Dry soils stretched from the west coast to east coast, with wet soils in the north and southeast, according to GRACE soil moisture data. The GRACE data showed low groundwater in the west and east. These anomaly patterns were confirmed by Australian Bureau of Meteorology and Australian Combined Drought Indicator analyses, which also showed low streamflows along the west and east coasts and some areas on both coasts with low water storage levels. According to media reports (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), Australia's Bureau of Meteorology has declared two major climate drivers are officially underway — El Niño and a "positive" Indian Ocean Dipole — prompting further warnings that extreme heat could hit this spring and summer. These two climate drivers are linked to hot, dry conditions across the continent.

South America

In South America, September was drier than normal in northern and western regions, with wetter-than-normal conditions in parts of the south. Virtually the entire continent was much warmer than normal, with only southern parts of Argentina and Chile near to cooler than normal. This resulted in the warmest September in the NOAA/NCEI record, continent-wide. Record continental warmth extended back through the last 12 months (October-September). The unusual warmth increased evapotranspiration, as indicated on the ESI map, which exacerbated drought conditions. The SPEI revealed extensive and widespread drought from northern Argentina and Chile to the northern coast of South America at 1- to 6-month time scales. The dry area crept southward at longer time scales out to 48 months, with some pockets of wetness appearing in the north. Satellite (GRACE) observations revealed extensive areas of low groundwater and soil moisture from Venezuela to Brazil and southern Peru to the southern tip of the continent. Satellite analysis revealed poor vegetative health from Colombia to Brazil and Peru to Argentina. Drought was confirmed in Brazil on the Brazilian Drought Monitor, in Bolivia on the Bolivian Drought Monitor, in Chile and Argentina on Southern South America Drought Information System and Chilean Combined Drought Index maps, and in western South America countries on the Western South America Regional Drought Monitor.

According to media reports (BNAmericas), a wave of water emergencies has hit Bolivia as the drought worsens — 71 municipalities had declared water emergencies or disasters by September 21 — prompting the central government to prepare to step up relief efforts. The Associated Press reported that the Amazon rainforest in Brazil is facing a severe drought that may affect around 500,000 people by the end of the year: "Many are already struggling to access essential supplies such as food and water, because the principal means of transportation in the region is waterways, and river levels are historically low. Droughts also impact fishing, a means of subsistence for many riverside communities." Reuters added, Brazil's government is preparing a task force to provide emergency assistance to inhabitants in the Amazon region hit by a severe drought that has impacted the rivers that are their life support. Environment Minister Marina Silva said, "Low river levels and hotter waters have killed masses of fish seen floating on river surfaces, contaminating the drinking water."

North America

In North America, September was drier than normal across most of Canada, Mexico, and Central America, and from the southwestern U.S. to the Great Lakes. Temperatures were warmer than normal across most of the continent, except for Alaska, southwest Canada, and the U.S. West Coast. Continent-wide, September 2023 ranked as the warmest September in the NOAA/NCEI record. As seen on the ESI map, the intense heat increased evapotranspiration from Canada to Mexico, exacerbating drought conditions. The abnormally hot temperatures for the summer and part of the spring resulted in record hot temperatures continent-wide for the last 6 months (April-September). The SPEI indicated that intense dryness dominated Canada, Mexico, Central America, and the southern U.S. for the last 1 to 48 months. In the U.S., the Mississippi Valley and parts of the Great Plains were dry at 1- to 12-month time scales, the Plains were dry at 24 months, and Plains to West Coast were dry at 36- to 48-month time scales. According to national analyses, the U.S. had the seventh warmest and 22nd driest September in the 1895-2023 record, and Mexico had the driest and warmest September in the national record that begins in 1941; moderate to exceptional drought covered 75.0% of Mexico and 40.1% of the contiguous U.S. (33.6% of the 50 States and Puerto Rico), and abnormal dryness and drought affected 72% of Canada. Hundreds of large wildfires occurred in all three countries during September. Satellite (GRACE) observations revealed extensive areas of low groundwater and soil moisture across most of Canada, Mexico, and Central America, and across parts of the southern and central U.S. Satellite analysis indicated poor vegetative health across most of the continent, except in parts of the U.S. The North American Drought Monitor product depicted drought across the U.S. Pacific Northwest to much of western to central Canada, with abnormal dryness or drought even extending to Labrador on the eastern Canadian coast; drought stretched across the length of Mexico and into the southern U.S., with abnormal dryness or drought extending along the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys and into the central Plains. The Caribbean Regional Climate Center SPI maps showed areas of short-term (1 to 6 months) or long-term (12 to 24 months) dryness across parts of the Caribbean islands.

In Canada, the AAFC (Agriculture and AgriFood Canada) reported that abnormally dry to drought conditions affected 69% of the country's agricultural landscape. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics indicated that 55% of the nation's topsoil moisture and 60% of the subsoil moisture were short or very short (dry or very dry) at the end of September, and 18% of the nation's corn crop, 17% of the soybean crop, 43% of the cotton crop, and 35% of the nation's pasture and rangeland were in poor to very poor condition. Mexico's CONAGUA agency reported the nation's reservoir storage 34% of average, with 122 of the 210 main dams in the country having a storage of less than 50%. The National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR) reported that, from January 1 to September 28, 2023, fires have burned a total of 924,549.34 hectares in Mexico; this figure is second only to the similar period in 2011, when 952,316.10 hectares burned.

According to media reports (Grain Central), persistent hot and dry weather conditions across the Prairie provinces is expected to reduce the production of Canada's wheat, barley, oats, and canola crops, while corn and soybean output is expected to increase year-on-year as eastern Canada has enjoyed higher-than-average rainfall since the beginning of the growing season. Reuters reported that the Panama Canal threatened to further reduce the maximum amount of vessel transits authorized per day if a drought that has hit the waterway this year continues. Phys.org added that the drought has prompted Panama to look into new sources of water for the Panama Canal (the Panama Canal moves six percent of global maritime trade in a normal year). According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, water levels on the Mississippi River have fallen to near record levels a full month ahead of last year's low water stage. The Mississippi River has fallen 15 feet in a month. The low level of the Mississippi River has forced barge companies to lighten loads, making it more costly to transport grain and other goods on the river; the cargo rate from St. Louis downriver was up 77% above the three-year average. Nation News Barbados reported that the Barbados-based Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum (CariCOF) said, as of September, severe, or worse, short-term drought has developed in Grand Cayman, French Guiana, northern Guyana, eastern Suriname, Tobago, and the US Virgin Islands. Long-term drought to the end of November is evolving in western Belize, Dominica, southern French Guiana, Martinique, south east Puerto Rico, St Vincent, Trinidad and Tobago, and might possibly develop or continue in Aruba, Bonnaire and Curacao, Barbados, French Guiana, Grenada, St Lucia and St Maarten/St-Martin. CariCOF said short-term drought to the end of December, is evolving in central and southern French Guiana, Suriname, Trinidad, and might possibly develop in Dominica, Guyana, Martinique, St Lucia, St Vincent and northern French Guiana.


Citing This Report

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, Global Drought Narrative for September 2023, published online October 2023, retrieved on December 11, 2023 from https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/access/monitoring/monthly-report/global-drought/202309.