According to the February 28, 2023 U.S. Drought Monitor, moderate to exceptional drought covers 32.1% of the United States including Puerto Rico, a decrease from last week’s 34.7%. The worst drought categories (extreme to exceptional drought) slightly increased from 4.6% last week to 4.7%.
A series of Pacific low-pressure and frontal systems moved across the western contiguous U.S. during this U.S. Drought Monitor week (February 22–28). The weather systems dropped copious amounts of rain and snow across the West, especially over the Sierra, coastal ranges, and Rocky Mountains. The weather systems re-intensified as they crossed the Plains and into the Midwest, tapping Gulf of Mexico moisture to spread several inches of rain over northeast Texas to the Appalachians and Ohio Valley, with several inches of snow falling in the below-freezing air across the northern tier states from the Dakotas to New England.
A high-pressure ridge over the Gulf of Mexico generated a southerly flow that spread warmer-than-normal air from the Gulf Coast to the southern Great Lakes. It also pushed the low-pressure systems along a storm track that went northeastward from the southern and central Plains to the Great Lakes.
Temperatures averaged cooler than normal across the snowy northern states, across the central to northern Plains, and over the West. Little to no precipitation fell across the Gulf Coast, western portions of the southern and central Plains, and over the northern Plains near the Canadian border.
It was also drier than normal over parts of the Pacific Northwest, northern New England, and the Mid-Atlantic states. Wetter-than-normal conditions were widespread across the rest of the West, parts of the northern and central Plains and Northeast, and much of the Midwest.
Drought or abnormal dryness expanded and continued in parts of Texas, Florida, and other Gulf Coast states. Drought or abnormal dryness contracted or reduced in intensity across much of California and other parts of the West and Plains, as well as parts of the Great Lakes region.
Nationally, contraction exceeded expansion, with the nationwide moderate to exceptional drought area decreasing this week. Abnormal dryness and drought are currently affecting over 112 million people across the United States including Puerto Rico—about 36.0% of the population.
The full U.S. Drought Monitor weekly update is available from Drought.gov.
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.
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.