According to the February 19, 2019, U.S. Drought Monitor, moderate to exceptional drought covers 13.1% of the United States, a decrease from last week’s 13.6%. The worst drought categories (extreme to exceptional drought) decreased from 1.6% last week to 1.1%.
During the week, a series of Pacific weather systems flew into the contiguous United States along a strong jet stream flow. The storms intensified within an upper-level low pressure trough, spreading above-normal rain and snow across much of the West. The surface low pressure systems and their associated fronts weakened as they crossed the Rockies, but rejuvenated when they reached the Plains and Southeast. Some tracked north, dropping above-normal precipitation across the central Plains to Great Lakes and Northeast, while others tapped Gulf of Mexico moisture to bring above-normal precipitation to the region from the Tennessee Valley to Mid-Atlantic coast.
The storm tracks missed much of the southern Plains to Ohio Valley, coastal Southeast, and parts of the northern Plains, with these areas ending the week drier than normal. The fronts spread colder-than-normal air across the West and Plains to Great Lakes, while the extreme southern Plains, as well as the Southeast and much of the East Coast, averaged warmer than normal for the week. Drought and abnormal dryness contracted in parts of the West and parts of Hawaii, where surface lows and troughs brought above-normal precipitation, but expanded in parts of the southern Plains to Southeast. Contraction outweighed expansion, resulting in a shrinking of the national drought footprint.
Abnormal dryness and drought are currently affecting over 46 million people across the United States—about 14.9% of the country’s population.
In addition to Drought.gov, you can find further information on the current drought as well as on this week’s Drought Monitor update at the National Drought Mitigation Center. See their recent news releases.
The most recent U.S. Drought Outlook is available from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center and the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides information about the drought’s influence on crops and livestock.