According to the February 4, 2020, U.S. Drought Monitor, moderate to extreme drought covers 8.9% of the United States including Puerto Rico, a decrease from last week’s 9.2%. The worst drought categories (extreme to exceptional drought) increased from 0.04% last week to 0.06% this week.
A strong westerly circulation pattern over the northeastern Pacific Ocean funneled Pacific weather systems into the Pacific Northwest. The upper-level pattern was generally westerly across the United States, so the Pacific systems moved fairly rapidly, soaking windward sides of the Coastal and Rocky Mountain ranges and drying out as they moved into the rainshadow areas.
The Pacific systems entered the Great Plains region starved of moisture, but they picked up some Gulf of Mexico moisture as they continued their eastward trek, bringing precipitation to parts of the southern Plains to Ohio Valley and Coastal Southeast to Mid-Atlantic States. With this pattern, most of the contiguous United States was drier than normal, especially the Southwest, Midwest, and Northeast, but also much of the Great Plains and interior Deep South.
Although cold fronts traversed the country with the Pacific systems, the circulation pattern blocked most of the really cold air masses, with the week averaging warmer than normal for most of the contiguous United States. There was little change in drought status this week, with drought and abnormal dryness contracting in the wetter parts of the Pacific Northwest, southern Plains, and southern Florida, as well as Hawaii, but expanding in parts of Texas and the Gulf of Mexico coast.
Abnormal dryness and drought are currently affecting over 47 million people across the United States including Puerto Rico—about 15.3% 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.