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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: The University of Maryland's Dr. Robert Adler noted that tropical precipitation patterns associated with the current El Niño include floods and landslides in East Africa and parts of South America, along with continuing drought over the Amazon. His estimate for global precipitation ranks November 2023 as the wettest November, globally. GDIS global indicators revealed beneficial precipitation in November across some of the drought areas in Mexico, Central America, East Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia, while dry conditions persisted across much of Canada, the United States, and northern and southern parts of South America and Africa. Anomalously warm conditions continued to dominate all of the continents. It was a record-warm November for Asia, Africa, and South America, with North America having the second warmest November and Europe the 15th warmest November. Globally, November 2023 ranked as the warmest as well as wettest November on record. 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, Africa, Europe, 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. The Phys.org organization reported that new research reveals millions of people around the world living in poverty have been experiencing a "climate hazard flip" since the turn of the century. Findings show that under a "whiplash" of extreme climate pressures, areas that used to experience frequent droughts are now more prone to frequent flooding, while other regions historically prone to flooding now endure more frequent droughts. This is having a devastating impact on communities in these regions. According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) report, Global Drought Snapshot, drought-related data based on research in the past two years point to "an unprecedented emergency on a planetary scale, where the massive impacts of human-induced droughts are only starting to unfold." The UNCCD notes that few if any hazard claims more lives, causes more economic loss, and affects more sectors of societies than drought.

Europe

Northern Scandinavia and some Mediterranean coastal areas were drier than normal during November 2023, while most of Europe was wetter than normal. This month's precipitation added to last month's above-normal precipitation to create a positive precipitation anomaly pattern across much of Europe extending over the last 2 to 12 months. However, the below-normal precipitation of earlier months resulted in dryness in the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) centered over the Mediterranean at 24 months that extended further north across Europe at longer time periods. Temperatures were warmer than normal across the southern half of the continent and cooler than normal in Scandinavia, making November 2023 the 15th warmest November, 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-November through September-November, and, combined with anomalous warmth earlier in the year, the second warmest December-November 12-month period. The hot temperatures increased evapotranspiration that, combined with low precipitation earlier in the year, intensified drought conditions, as seen in the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI), in southern Europe at 6- to 12-month time periods and across Europe 24- to 48-month time scales. The recent rain improved soil moisture conditions, but soils were still dry across the Mediterranean coast and from France to eastern Europe, based on satellite (GRACE) indicators. The satellite-based (GRACE) indicator of groundwater revealed low groundwater levels continuing across most of Europe. However, satellite observations of vegetative health (Vegetative Health Index, VHI) revealed improved vegetation conditions over most of the continent. The European Combined Drought Indicator showed the most severe drought in eastern and Mediterranean parts of Europe, with 37.7% of the EU-27 territory in Drought Watch, Warning, or Alert conditions, which is less than last month.

According to media reports (The Associated Press), surging olive oil prices, driven in part by two years of drought in Spain that have damaged the olive crop, has meant opportunity for criminals across the Mediterranean. Warehouse break-ins, dilution of premium oil with inferior product, and falsification of shipping data are on the rise in olive-growing heartlands of Greece, Spain and Italy. Gangs using chainsaws are stealing heavily laden branches and even entire trees from unguarded groves. The BBC noted that, according to the International Organization of Vine and Wine, poor weather (frost, heavy rainfall, and drought) around the world is likely to cause global wine production to drop to a six-decade low this year. The Guardian observed that extreme drought in northern Italy has doubled over the past two decades, creating a climate that increasingly mirrors that of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. According to the Associated Press, tighter water restrictions for drought-stricken northeast Spain went into effect in late November, when authorities in Catalonia said that Barcelona may need to have fresh water shipped in by boat in the coming months. Catalonia is suffering its worst drought on record with reservoirs that provide water for about 6 million people, including Spain's second-biggest city Barcelona, filled to just 18% of their capacity. By comparison, Spain's reservoirs as a whole are at 43% of their capacity. The Prague Morning media organization reported that the Czech Republic is grappling with a 34% drought impact, accompanied by a decline in groundwater levels. Over the last decade, the monthly discharge of springs has seen a worrisome 127% decrease, according to data from the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute.

Asia

November was wetter than normal across large swaths of Asia, with drier-than-normal areas occurring over parts of Southwest, southern, and east-central Asia. At longer time scales, the SPI revealed dryness in parts of Russia, northern China, Southwest Asia, and India at 2- to 72-month time scales, with dryness in Southwest Asia particularly acute at 9- to 48-month time scales. November 2023 temperatures were warmer than normal across much of the continent, with Asia having the warmest November, 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 February-November through October-November, and the second warmest January-November (last 11 months) and December-November (last 12 months). The excessive warmth increased evapotranspiration across much of Asia, especially in Russia and China, according to the Evaporative Stress Index (ESI), and from Southwest Asia to northern China and southern Russia, according to the SPEI. At longer time scales, the drought areas identified by the SPI were more extensive and severe according to the SPEI. The November precipitation helped improve soil moisture conditions, but dry soils were still evident in southern parts of Asia, as well as parts of Russia and China, as seen on satellite-based products (GRACE), and groundwater levels were still significantly low (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 26.4% 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, mostly in the south, north, and east at 1 to 6 months and central to eastern islands at the 12-month time scale.

According to media reports (Daily Sabah), in Istanbul, Turkey, diminished rainfall this year has led to a drastic drop in water levels at three out of 10 dams, down to around only 3%. The city, experiencing one of its most significant droughts in recent years, faces the impact of prolonged below-average rainfall and temperatures consistently exceeding seasonal norms, causing some of the dams that supply water to dry up. The World Weather Attribution group noted that, for the last 3 years (from boreal winter 2020 onwards), a large region in West Asia, encompassing the Fertile Crescent around the rivers Euphrates and Tigris (which includes Syria and Iraq) 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. According to the Bangkok Post and Xinhua News Agency, the extreme El Niño phenomenon in Indonesia has disrupted the rice production in the largest economy of Southeast Asia, which has resorted to imports to secure domestic stocks.

Africa

November 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 November, which continued an El Niño-induced wet break from months to years of deficient rainfall in the region, but the rainfall was excessive causing deadly floods. The dry areas expanded in size and spread onto neighboring Madagascar at longer time scales to 72 months, according to the SPI. Most of Africa was warmer than normal this month, with November 2023 ranking as the warmest November, continent-wide. Excessive warmth earlier in the year resulted in the warmest multi-month periods from the last 2 months (October-November) back to the beginning of the year (January-November), with the last 12 months (December-November) ranking second warmest. The excessive warmth increased evapotranspiration, resulting in most of the continent having drought conditions at 1- to 12-month time scales, as seen on the SPEI, and even most of East Africa having drought at longer time scales (12-48 months) in spite of the recent rainfall. Satellite (GRACE) observations revealed persistent low soil moisture and groundwater in the Maghreb and adjacent northern regions, and over 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, including Madagascar. An analysis by the African Flood and Drought Monitor estimated 21% of the continent in drought at the end of November, which is about the same as last month.

According to media reports (The Associated Press), water is an ever more precious resource on Mayotte, the poorest place in the European Union. Taps flow just one day out of three in this French territory off Africa's eastern coast (near Madagascar), because of a drawn-out drought compounded by years of underinvestment and water mismanagement. Diseases like cholera and typhoid are on the rebound, and the French army recently intervened to distribute water and quell tensions over supplies. The crisis is a wakeup call to the French government about the challenges and cost of managing human-caused climate change across France's far-flung territories. Reuters noted that economic growth in the southern Africa country of Zimbabwe is expected to fall to 3.5% in 2024 from 5.5% this year, mainly due to an anticipated drought caused by El Niño. El Niño, a natural climate phenomenon in which surface waters of the central and eastern Pacific become unusually warm, causing changes in global weather patterns, is expected to hit crop yields during the 2023/24 farming season.

Australia

Eastern and parts of central to southwestern Australia were wetter than normal during November 2023. Monthly temperatures were mostly warmer than normal, with the month ranking ninth warmest on record according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. The SPI showed dry conditions in parts of southern and western Australia for November, with dryness extending into central parts of the continent and along the eastern and northern coasts out to the 6-month time scale; it was dry in southern to eastern parts and extreme northern Australia at 9-12 months; dryness was limited mostly to the Southwest and along parts of the northern and eastern coasts at longer time scales. The ESI indicated enhanced evapotranspiration over western and eastern areas due to warmth during November and previous months. The effect of the enhanced evapotranspiration shows up in the SPEI maps as more severe and widespread dryness at all time scales, compared to the SPI maps. Dry soils were evident across the western third of the continent, according to GRACE soil moisture data. The GRACE data showed low groundwater in the west and parts of the east. Satellite observations (VHI) revealed stressed vegetation across most of the continent, especially the west to central regions. These moisture anomaly patterns were confirmed by Australian Bureau of Meteorology and Australian Combined Drought Indicator analyses, which also showed low soil moisture along the east coast, low streamflows along the west, east, and southern coasts and some areas on these coasts with low water storage levels.

According to media reports (New Scientist), there is concern that the unusual combination of a strong El Niño in the Pacific Ocean and a strong shift in temperatures across the Indian Ocean could intensify heat and drought in Australia and South-East Asia, and lead to flooding in East Africa.

South America

In South America, November was drier than normal across most of the Amazon river basin and northern and southern parts of the continent. The dry areas expanded across the northern half of the continent and southward from Bolivia and Paraguay on the 2- to 6-month SPI maps. The dry areas were more scattered across these areas at longer time scales. The northern two-thirds of South America was extremely warm during November, with the extreme southern area cooler than normal. The expansive warmth in the north gave the continent the warmest November 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 December-November through October-November, as well as November). The ESI captured the enhanced evapotranspiration from northern Argentina to the Caribbean coast due to the unusually warm temperatures, and the SPEI reflected its effects with more severe and widespread areas of drought at all time scales compared to the SPI maps. 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 (The Brazilian Report), the severe drought in Brazil has lowered river levels, disrupting cargo and passenger transportation through boats and giving steam to politicians in favor of paving a massive road in the Amazon. Reuters reported that Lake Titicaca is an important ecosystem for wildlife and a water source for millions of people in Bolivia and Peru, including in the city of El Alto, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) to the east. Its 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. The drought is approaching critical levels for the region's agriculture, farmers and experts said. 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.

North America

In North America, November was drier than normal across much of southern, central, and eastern Canada, and parts of the western and much of the central to eastern contiguous U.S. (CONUS). It was wetter than normal from northeastern Mexico to Central America. Temperatures were warmer than normal across northern, southern, and western to central parts of the continent. Continent-wide, November 2023 ranked as the second warmest November 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-November through September-November. The SPI indicated that intense dryness dominated much of Canada, the southwestern U.S. to northwestern Mexico, and the Mississippi River valley to the U.S. East Coast at the 2-month time period, and these areas plus southern Mexico to Central America at the 3-month time scale. Much of Canada, the Mississippi valley to East Coast, and southern U.S. Plains to Central America were dry at 6 to 12 months on the SPI maps, with longer time scales wet in the eastern U.S. but dry in the other areas, plus the western CONUS. When the increased evapotranspiration from the hot temperatures is included, the SPEI maps show more intense and widespread dryness across these areas at all time scales. According to national analyses, the contiguous U.S. had the 19th warmest and 12th driest November in the 1895-2023 record, with moderate to exceptional drought covering 36.1% of the nation, which is slightly less than a month ago. Moderate to exceptional drought covered 53.6% of Mexico at the end of November, which also is less than a month ago. In Canada, 72% of the country was classified as Abnormally Dry (D0) or in Moderate to Exceptional Drought (D1-D4), which is a slight decrease from last month. Hundreds of wildfires occurred in all three countries during November, especially in western Canada. 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, the southern U.S. Plains, the Mississippi valley to Southeastern U.S., and parts of Mexico to Central America. 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 81% of the country's agricultural landscape, an increase from last month. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics indicated that drought affected approximately 20% of barley production in the U.S., 44% of corn production, 45% of cotton production, 43% of sorghum production, 47% of soybean production, 29% of spring wheat production, 38% of winter wheat production, 36% of hay acreage, 37% of the cattle inventory, 23% of the milk cow inventory, and 29% of the sheep inventory at the end of November; 41% of the nation's topsoil moisture and 50% of the subsoil moisture were short or very short (dry or very dry); and 15% of the nation's winter wheat crop was in poor to very poor condition.

According to media reports (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, CBC), widespread drought across the Lake Winnipeg watershed in Canada 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. Brandon is in play for Hydro because it is contending with the lowest water levels since the 2021 drought, and Manitoba is heading into a winter that could pose similar challenges. Canada's Vancouver Sun publication reported that successive summers marked by heat and drought have taken a toll on British Columbia Christmas tree farmers. The B.C. Christmas Tree Association estimates more than 5,000 seedlings were lost due to drought this summer, with about 250 B.C. growers leaving the business over the last decade. The CBC added that the drought is impacting the ski industry in British Columbia by reducing mountain snowpack. In late November, the picturesque alpine town of Smithers, B.C., had no snow on the ground. In the U.S., New Orleans Public Radio reported that the Mississippi River is very low this fall just as it was last year, requiring dredging to continue later in the season to keep the channel open. The Upper Mississippi River basin needs a lot of moisture to recharge the river. While the river is low, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must maintain a shipping channel that is at least nine feet deep, and dredging is a key temporary measure to keep the river navigable. The dredging began earlier this year. Since June, the Corps has spent $38 million to maintain the channel, mostly through dredging, moving the equivalent of 5,000 Olympic-sized pools of sediment. Dredging may stretch into six months this year. In Mexico, The Associated Press reported that Mexican officials imposed severe, months-long cuts to Mexico City's water supply in November, acting just a month after initial restrictions were ordered as drought dries the capital's reservoirs. The Marine Insight media organization stressed that the Panama Canal is experiencing the worst drought in 73 years, and the dry weather has forced massive oil tankers to stop using the Canal altogether. This development means extended voyages for tankers by thousands of miles. Bloomberg/Financial Post added that the unprecedented congestion at the Panama Canal could ultimately result in delays at Egypt's Suez Canal, potentially affecting cargoes of liquefied natural gas. "Suez will need to take a lot more vessels" as a result of the crisis in Panama, Sveinung Støhle, the deputy chief executive of Greek shipping giant Angelicoussis Group, said at a conference in Athens. "That means that the waiting time on both ends likely will increase."


Citing This Report

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, Global Drought Narrative for November 2023, published online December 2023, retrieved on April 23, 2024 from https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/access/monitoring/monthly-report/global-drought/202311.