According to the March 14, 2023 U.S. Drought Monitor, moderate to exceptional drought covers 29.9% of the United States including Puerto Rico, a decrease from last week’s 31.5%. The worst drought categories (extreme to exceptional drought) stayed about the same at 4.4%.
The upper-level circulation during this U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) week (March 8-14) began with a low-pressure trough over the western contiguous U.S. (CONUS) and a high-pressure ridge extending from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes. Pacific weather systems moved through the jet stream flow, keeping their low-pressure centers mostly along the northern states but dragging cold fronts and frontal lows across all 48 of the contiguous states. The fronts and weather systems suppressed the eastern ridge, resulting in a cooler-than-normal week across most of the CONUS except for the Gulf Coast and northern New England.
The weather systems in the West were fed by atmospheric rivers of Pacific moisture that swamped California and adjacent states with heavy rain and snow, adding to floods that have been plaguing the region for weeks and resulting in above-normal weekly precipitation across most of the West. The northern low-pressure systems also generated above-normal precipitation over the northern Plains to western Great Lakes.
The fronts in the South tapped Gulf of Mexico moisture to spread above-normal precipitation across the region from eastern parts of Texas and Oklahoma to the Georgia coast and northern Florida. The storm track missed other parts of the country, with the week ending up drier than normal across southern parts of the Southwest, much of the southern and central Plains, the Ohio Valley to much of the Mid-Atlantic Coast and Northeast, and southern Florida. The week was also drier than normal across Hawaii and much of Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Drought or abnormal dryness expanded where it continued to dry in parts of Texas, southern Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Drought or abnormal dryness contracted or reduced in intensity where it was wet across much of California and other parts of the West, Southeast, southern Plains, and northern Plains to Upper Mississippi Valley. Nationally, contraction exceeded expansion, with the nationwide moderate to exceptional drought area decreasing this week.
Abnormal dryness and drought are currently affecting over 93 million people across the United States including Puerto Rico—about 29.9% 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.
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.