According to the February 2, 2021, U.S. Drought Monitor, moderate to exceptional drought covers 38.3% of the United States including Puerto Rico, a slight decrease from last week’s 38.5%. The worst drought categories (extreme to exceptional drought) decreasedfrom 17.6% last week to 17.0% this week.
A series of strong Pacific weather systems dominated the circulation pattern across the contiguous United States. The upper-level lows and surface cold fronts slammed into the West Coast, leaving above-normal precipitation across much of California into parts of the Pacific Northwest. The systems weakened as they crossed the Rockies, but they were re-energized over the Midwest and picked up Gulf of Mexico moisture to spread above-normal precipitation from eastern Kansas to the Ohio Valley and Northeast. Some of the fronts and surface lows penetrated farther south to leave the coastal Southeast with above-normal precipitation for the week.
The rest of the contiguous United States was drier than normal with much of the southern and northern Plains receiving little to no precipitation. The Pacific weather systems brought cooler-than-normal weekly temperatures to the Southwest, central Plains, and Midwest to East Coast. An upper-level ridge shifted toward the middle of the country, helping to keep much of the Northwest to northern Plains, and parts of the southern Plains, warmer than normal. Drought or abnormal dryness contracted or decreased in intensity over parts of the West, central Plains, and Midwest where above-normal precipitation fell, as well as in Hawaii. Drought or abnormal dryness intensified or expanded in the northern Rockies, southern Plains, and Southeast. Drought contraction exceeded expansion, so the overall U.S. drought footprint decreased a little this week.
Abnormal dryness and drought are currently affecting over 124 million people across the United States including Puerto Rico—about 40.0% of the 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.