NOAA Logo Global Drought Information System

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: Dry conditions persisted across much of Canada, South America, Australia, northern China, and the Mediterranean region during October 2023, while beneficial precipitation fell across some of the drought areas in the other continents. Anomalously warm conditions continued to dominate all of the continents. It was a record-warm October for Asia and South America, with Africa, Europe, and North America having the second warmest October. 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. 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. Drought has reduced crop yields and raised prices of foodstuffs worldwide. The GEOGLAM Crop Monitor indicated that agriculture was most threatened in parts of the Americas, East Africa, eastern Europe, southern Asia, and parts of Australia and Indonesia. 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. The Reuters news agency noted that, with the release of their State of Global Water Resources 2022 report in October, the World Meteorological Organization said that the hydrological cycle was increasingly out of balance due to climate change and made a call for a fundamental policy shift towards better monitoring. Reuters added that the United Nation's research arm, the UN University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security, warned in their Interconnected Disaster Risks report that the world is heading towards a series of environmental "tipping points" that could cause irreversible damage to water supplies and other life-sustaining systems.

Europe

Southeast Europe and Mediterranean coastal areas were drier than normal during October 2023, while most of Europe to the west and north was wetter than normal. This precipitation anomaly pattern persisted for the last 2 to 3 months. Temperatures were warmer than normal across the southern half of the continent and cooler than normal in Scandinavia, making October 2023 the second warmest October, continent-wide, in the 1910-2023 NOAA/NCEI record. Warm anomalies have been persistent throughout the summer, giving Europe the warmest multi-month periods from June-October through September-October, and, combined with anomalous warmth earlier in the year, the warmest February-October and January-October. Dry conditions spread northward from the south and east at longer time scales, with much of Europe from the Mediterranean to the Baltic Sea dry at 2- to 5-year time scales, according to the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI). The excessive heat has increased evapotranspiration, making drought conditions worse. Soils were dry from the Mediterranean and Caspian Sea 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 most of the continent. The European Combined Drought Indicator showed the most severe drought in eastern and Mediterranean parts of Europe, with 48.6% of the EU-27 territory in Drought Watch, Warning, or Alert conditions, which is more than last month.

According to media reports (The Washington Post), extreme heat, wildfires and drought have decimated much of the world’s olive oil harvest yet again, driving prices to a record high of US$9,000 per metric ton. Spain, the source of half the world’s olive oil supply and the global price setter, in May reported a drop in production of 48 percent compared with last year. The BBC added that, according to the International Organization of Vine and Wine, poor weather around the world is likely to cause global wine production to drop to a six-decade low this year. According to Decanter, agricultural insurance system Agroseguro reported that wine-growers' insured damages, from drought and multiple hail storms, were estimated at 100.5m euro in 2023, which is more than double the payout for wine-grape damage last year, and the most since Agroseguro was founded in 1978. The Local France media organization reported that a new report commissioned by the French government has found that millions of French homes are at risk of structural damage, exacerbated by drought. Yahoo News/AFP reported that the once deep and coursing waters of the Doubs river in eastern France have shrunken to a dry bed that locals can cross almost without getting their feet wet. Nasdaq/Reuters noted that the prolonged absence of rain across most Ukrainian regions has created unfavorable conditions both for the ongoing sowing of winter crops and for the plants already sown. Ukraine is a traditional grower of winter wheat, barley and rapeseed.

Asia

October was wetter than normal across large swaths of Asia, with drier-than-normal areas occurring over parts of India, northern China to eastern Siberia, and parts of Southwest Asia. At longer time scales, the SPI revealed dryness in parts of Russia and India at 2- to 6-month time scales; parts of Southeast Asia and northern China to western and southern Russia at 1- to 4-year time scales; and Southwest Asia from the last 6 months to 6 years with the intensity of drought and area covered increasing at the longer time scales. October 2023 temperatures were warmer than normal across virtually the entire continent, with Asia having the warmest October, continent-wide, in the NOAA/NCEI record. Persistent widespread warmth over the last several months gave Asia the warmest multi-month periods on record for March-October through September-October. The excessive warmth increased evapotranspiration across much of Asia, especially in Russia and northern China, according to the Evaporative Stress Index (ESI). The lack of precipitation and high evaporation dried soils in southern parts of Asia, as well as parts of Russia and China, as seen on satellite-based products (GRACE), and groundwater levels were significantly lowered (GRACE). Satellite observations (VHI) revealed poor vegetative health across much of Russia and especially severe 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 26.3% of the nation, which is more than 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, mostly in the south, north, and east at 1 to 3 months and central to eastern islands at 6- to 12-month time scales.

According to media reports (Stuff), drought will be reducing the availability of agricultural products, including hazelnuts. Turkey produces 70% of the world’s hazelnuts and has been battling drought and damage to crops by insects since May, affecting the prime growing season. Bianet reported that high temperatures in İstanbul and across Turkey have taken a toll on the water levels in the city's reservoirs, raising concerns over a potential drought crisis. The Daily Sabah added that the diminished rainfall this year has led to a drastic drop in water levels at three out of 10 dams, down to around only 3%, with the risk that prolonged below-average rainfall may cause some of the dams that supply water to Istanbul to dry up. According to World Weather Attribution, from boreal winter 2020 onwards, a large region in West Asia, encompassing the Fertile Crescent around the rivers Euphrates and Tigris as well as Iran, has suffered from exceptionally low rains and elevated temperatures. The resulting 3-year drought has led to severe impacts on agriculture and access to potable water. The Business Times noted that Indonesia’s statistics bureau said 2023 rice output is expected to drop by 2 per cent to 30.90 million tonnes, as extreme dry weather driven by the El Niño weather pattern affects its harvests. The Bangkok Post/Xinhua News Agency added that the disruption of the rice production has forced Indonesia, which is the largest economy of Southeast Asia, to resort to imports to secure domestic stocks. The Coconuts Bali media organization reported that a state of emergency was declared in the Indonesian province of Bali in response to the mounting drought crisis in the region. Acting Governor Sang Made Mahendra described extreme weather conditions between July and October 2023, leaving 113 banjar (traditional villages) grappling with a severe shortage of clean water.

Africa

October continued dry across much of the Mediterranean coast (the Maghreb region) of Africa, as well as central and southern parts of the continent. Eastern Africa (Horn of Africa) was wetter than normal in October, which was a beneficial break from months to years of deficient rainfall in the region. The dry areas expanded in size at longer time scales to 6 months, according to the SPI. Much of North Africa was very dry at 12- to 60-month time scales, with dryness expanding in the south and appearing in East Africa beginning at 12 months. Most of Africa was warmer than normal this month, with October 2023 ranking as the second warmest October, continent-wide. Excessive warmth earlier in the year resulted in the warmest multi-month periods from the last 2 months (September-October) back to the beginning of the year (January-October). The excessive warmth increased evapotranspiration, as seen on the ESI. 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 central regions. Satellite observations of vegetative health (VHI) revealed stressed vegetation over the Maghreb region and much of southern Africa. An analysis by the African Flood and Drought Monitor estimated 21% of the continent in drought at the end of October, which is about the same as last month.

According to state media reports (Yale Climate Connections), between 2016 and 2018, more than 2 million people in Somalia fled their homes, finding refuge elsewhere within their country. Some said they left because of violent conflict. Even more said they left because of drought. Reuters added that flooding rains have followed the historic drought in Somalia and neighboring countries in East Africa, with the United Nations calling the floods a once-in-a-century event. The UN said that around 1.6 million people in Somalia could be affected by the heavy seasonal downpours, which have been worsened by the combined impact of two climate phenomena, El Niño and the Indian Ocean Dipole. France 24 reported that the French island group Mayotte, which is located near Madagascar, will begin distributing bottled water to its 310,000 inhabitants in November as the region faces its worst drought episode this century.

Australia

Like last month, most of Australia was drier than normal during October 2023. Monthly temperatures were much warmer than normal in western Australia, slightly warmer than normal in the east, and near to cooler than normal in central regions. According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the continent had the fifth driest October in the 1900-present record and driest August-October. The SPI shows dry conditions continent-wide at 2- to 3-month time scales, with wet conditions in north-central areas at 6 to 12 months and still very dry to the west and east. Wet conditions dominate at longer time scales, except along the southwest and northeast coasts. The ESI indicated enhanced evapotranspiration over western and eastern areas due to warmth during October and previous 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, east, and southern coasts and some areas on these coasts with low water storage levels.

According to media reports (The Sydney Morning Herald), some farmers in Australia are resorting to offering their sheep for free to whoever will take them, as livestock prices plummet ahead of a forecast dry summer they fear could strip paddocks bare. Nearly three years of good rainfall on the eastern seaboard filled paddocks with feed and farmers eagerly rebuilt their flocks after the preceding drought decimated livestock numbers. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation noted that water carters are working around the clock as drought conditions start to bite across the New South Wales Hunter Valley. Feed and water supplies are drying up and farmers are getting rid of stock to try and get by. Channel News Asia reported that hundreds of firefighters battled bushfires in Australia's eastern state of Queensland on Oct. 25, where soaring temperatures and dry winds have fanned some of the most dangerous conditions in years. The Guardian noted concerns by authorities about Sydney’s water use. Ben Blayney, the head of water supply and production at Sydney Water, said that greater Sydney dams are at 89% capacity but "things can turn very quickly".

South America

In South America, October was drier than normal across most of the continent, with wetter-than-normal conditions in southeast coastal Brazil and a few other areas. This was the dominant pattern on the SPI maps for the last 2 to 6 months. The southern third of the continent had near-average temperatures while the rest of South America was warmer than normal. The warmth was so extreme that October 2023 ranked as the warmest October, continent-wide, in the NOAA/NCEI record. Excessive heat characterized much of 2023, resulting in the warmest multi-month period on record for each of the last 12 time periods (i.e., from November-October through September-October, as well as October). Wetter-than-normal areas increased in size at 12-month and longer time scales, although the unusually warm temperatures increased evapotranspiration which tended to negate the above-normal precipitation in places. The SPI showed excessive dryness at multi-year time scales from Argentina and Chile to Peru and parts of Brazil, as well as Venezuela. 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 across much of the continent, but especially in parts of Brazil and Bolivia 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 (Reuters), the severe drought in Brazil is choking major rivers in the Amazon rainforest and has disrupted ship traffic near the region's biggest city, pushing up costs for northern shipping routes and raising risks for corn exports in coming months. The water level at Manaus, a major river port in Brazil's Amazon rainforest, hit its lowest point in at least 121 years on Oct. 16. The Associated Press (AP) added that the historically low water levels have affected hundreds of thousands of people and wildlife. Thousands of isolated communities dependent on the Amazon rainforest’s waterways are stranded without supply of fuel, food or filtered water. Across Amazonas state, which has a territory the size of three Californias, 59 out of its 62 municipalities are under state of emergency, impacting 633,000 people. Dozens of river dolphins perished and washed up on shore. And thousands of lifeless fish float on the water's surface. The AP also noted that the Brazilian Amazon was grappling with a surge in wildfires along with the historic drought, and that thick smoke from the wildfires was affecting local populations. In Manaus, a city of 2 million, air quality ranked among the worst globally, leading to the suspension of college classes and the cancellation of various activities, including an international marathon.

The media organization, Stuff, reported that drought will be reducing the availability of agricultural products, including peanuts, which are in short supply, and more expensive, thanks to drought in Argentina. According to Reuters, the Rosario Grains Exchange warned that Argentina's core agricultural farmland could suffer "massive losses" in wheat yields due to another drought, even as the country reels from a drought in the last cycle deemed the worst in 60 years. Reuters also reported that, in Bolivia, the ten reservoirs that supply La Paz — one of the country's largest cities with about 2.2 million inhabitants — contain only 135 days of water combined. This prompted more than three hundred Bolivians to march under a scorching sun to a dusty plain near the Incachaca dam that overlooks the La Paz to pray for rain and an end to a severe drought that has threatened their water supply. La Prensa Latina reported that the Bolivian government announced that 200,871 families have been affected by the drought ravaging several departments, some of which have declared a state of disaster or emergency. The vice minister of civil defense, Juan Carlos Calvimontes, said that Oruro has declared a state of “disaster,” while the regions of La Paz, Cochabamba, and Chuquisaca have declared a state of “emergency.” Reuters added that Lake Titicaca’s water levels are now reaching record lows, worsened by the El Niño weather phenomenon that means less rain in the area, compounding a long dry spell and rare high temperatures. Lake Titicaca is an important ecosystem for wildlife in Bolivia and Peru, and it is a water source for millions of people, including in the city of El Alto, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) to the east. The drought is approaching critical levels for the region's agriculture, with local farmers and experts noting that, if it does not rain by early December, there will be no planting of potatoes, one of the food staples for Bolivia's rural communities and cities. Reuters reported that Ecuador will introduce power cuts for several hours a day until mid-December because of a strong drought that has hit production at its hydro-electric plants. The country's most extreme drought in the last five decades, which the government attributes to the El Niño phenomenon, has affected the eastern and southern regions where 90% of hydro-electric plants operate.

North America

In North America, October was drier than normal across southwest to north-central Canada, eastern Canada, the southeastern U.S., the southwestern U.S. to northern Mexico, and southern Mexico to Central America. Temperatures were warmer than normal across northern to eastern Canada, the western U.S. to Central America, and much of the eastern U.S. except the southeast. Continent-wide, October 2023 ranked as the second warmest October in the NOAA/NCEI record. As seen on the ESI map, the above-normal temperatures increased evapotranspiration across much of Canada and from the southern Plains in the U.S. to Central America, exacerbating drought conditions. Abnormally hot temperatures for the summer and part of the spring resulted in record hot temperatures continent-wide for the multi-month periods from April-October through September-October. The SPI indicated that intense dryness dominated much of Canada, most of Mexico and Central America, and parts of the southern U.S. for the last 2 months to 4 years, and dry conditions were evident over much of the Mississippi River Valley at 6- to 12-month time scales, much of the Great Plains at 24-48 months, and parts to much of the western U.S. at 2- to 6-year time scales. According to national analyses, the contiguous U.S. had the 18th warmest and 57th driest October in the 1895-2023 record, with moderate to exceptional drought covering 36.5% of the nation, which is less than a month ago. Moderate to exceptional drought covered 69.1% of Mexico at the end of October, which also is less than a month ago. In Canada, 73% of the country was classified as Abnormally Dry (D0) or in Moderate to Exceptional Drought (D1-D4), which is an increase from last month. Hundreds of large wildfires occurred in all three countries during October. Satellite (GRACE) observations revealed extensive areas of low groundwater across most of Canada, Mexico, and Central America, and much of the U.S., with low soil moisture dominating Canada and southern Mexico to Central America as well as parts of the southwest and southeast U.S. Satellite analysis indicated poor vegetative health across most of the continent, especially in parts of Canada and from the southwestern U.S. into Mexico. The North American Drought Monitor product depicted drought across the U.S. Pacific Northwest to much of Canada, from the southwestern U.S. across most of Mexico, and from parts of the U.S. east coast to the Mississippi River and parts of the Great 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 79% of the country’s agricultural landscape, an increase from last month. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics indicated that 39% of the nation’s topsoil moisture and 50% of the subsoil moisture were short or very short (dry or very dry) at the end of October, and 18% of the nation's winter wheat crop and 37% of the nation's pasture and rangeland were in poor to very poor condition.

According to media reports (CNN), the Mississippi River dropped to a historic low in October 2023, disrupting barge traffic and allowing saltwater to move up the river in Louisiana; this is the second consecutive year with a record low river level. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation noted that the ongoing drought in many parts of British Columbia is causing some rivers in the province's northern Interior to reach their driest mid-October levels in years. Leaders in Cumberland House, Saskatchewan, have declared a statement of emergency because the community has only four weeks' worth of water left in its reservoir — a worrying scenario as winter approaches. The reservoir is the only source of water in the community and this could impact the health and safety of those who rely on it. CFJC Today reported that ongoing drought concerns and wildfires have stunted many British Columbia hay producers. Many ranchers are finding it more difficult and expensive to feed their livestock and as a result, more calves are being put on the market. All About Feed reported that drought in parts of the Canadian Prairies during the 2023 growing season slashed feed supplies, prompting beef cattle farmers to seek feed alternatives and even consider reducing their herds. Canada's 2 largest beef producing provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan, representing over 49% and approximately 29% of the national herd, were hardest hit by drought conditions. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that widespread drought across the Lake Winnipeg watershed has forced Manitoba Hydro to operate its Brandon generating station months before the depths of winter, when the natural gas-fired plant is usually put into service as a last resort.

World Nation News reported that the price of tortillas in Mexico, one of the main staple foods in the country, will see a new increase in the short term. This is due to the severe drought faced by the main corn-producing states such as Sinaloa, which supplies 20 percent of the national grain production, and the ban imposed this year by the federal government on the import of transgenic white corn. According to the Associated Press, the Mexican National Water Commission announced water restrictions equivalent to about 8% of the Cutzamala system’s flow, and millions of users in Mexico City and Toluca fear even greater restrictions over the winter. The water restrictions were needed because of low reservoir levels that resulted from the lack of rain during Mexico's rainy season, which is about over. Marketplace reported that the Panama Canal Authority on Oct. 20 said it was temporarily suspending auctions for Neopanamax and Panamax locks as the waterway continues to deal with a drought. Reuters added that the Panama Canal, one of the world's main maritime trade routes, will further reduce daily ship crossings in the coming months due to a severe drought, increasing shipping costs. Booking slots, already at a reduced 31 per day, will be cut to 25 per day starting Nov. 3, and will be gradually reduced further over the next three months to 18 slots from Feb. 1. The recorded precipitation for October has been the lowest on record since 1950 (41% below), and so far, 2023 ranks as the second driest year for the same period. Marine Insight added that, with the Panama Canal experiencing the worst drought in 73 years, massive oil tankers have been forced to stop using the Canal altogether. This development means extended voyages for tankers by thousands of miles. KXAN (out of Austin, Texas) reported on a research by the University of Texas-Austin that found that weather conditions appear to be among the most significant factors when it comes to predicting immigration of Central Americans to the United States' southern border.


Citing This Report

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, Global Drought Narrative for October 2023, published online November 2023, retrieved on March 4, 2024 from https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/access/monitoring/monthly-report/global-drought/202310.