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U.S. Drought Monitor Update for March 20, 2018

Photo of Big Bend National Park in Texas
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According to the March 20, 2018, U.S. Drought Monitormoderate to exceptional drought continued to cover 31.0% of the contiguous United States for a second week. Extreme and exceptional drought—the worst categories—expanded to cover 6.4% of the Lower 48, up from 5.7% last week.

A complicated weather pattern dominated the upper-level circulation over the contiguous United States during this U.S. Drought Monitor week. An upper-level ridge that tried to establish itself over the central third of North America brought warmer-than-normal temperatures to the southern Plains of the Lower 48. But, large and powerful upper-level low pressure systems dominated the jet stream flow over the East Coast and West Coast.

Pacific weather systems moved out of the western low and dragged cold fronts across the contiguous United States before joining up with the eastern low to produce strong nor’easters. They kept temperatures colder than normal across much of the western and eastern Lower 48. The Pacific systems dropped above-normal precipitation across much of the West and central to northern Great Plains, and parts of the Southeast. But the storm track missed much of the Southwest to southern Plains, and Great Lakes to southern New England, where the week was drier than normal.

Drought and abnormal dryness contracted in the wet parts of the Plains and Southeast, but expanded and intensified in parts of the West, southern Plains, and western Great Lakes. The amount of drought contraction mostly equaled expansion, so the national drought footprint stayed the same, but the worst drought areas intensified in severity.

Abnormal dryness and drought are currently affecting nearly 108 million people across the United States—about 34.7% of the country’s population.

Map of U.S. drought conditions for March 20, 2018

The full U.S. Drought Monitor weekly update is available from

In addition to, 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.

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.

For additional drought information, follow #DroughtMonitor on Facebook and Twitter.

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