According to the March 7, 2023 U.S. Drought Monitor, moderate to exceptional drought covers 31.5% of the United States including Puerto Rico, a decrease from last week’s 32.1%. The worst drought categories (extreme to exceptional drought) decreased from 4.7% last week to 4.4%.
A series of Pacific low-pressure and frontal systems continued to move across the western contiguous U.S. during this U.S. Drought Monitor week (March 1-7). Like last week, 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 into the Midwest, triggering severe weather in the South and tapping Gulf of Mexico moisture to spread several inches of precipitation over an area stretching from northeast Texas to the Appalachians, Ohio Valley, and Northeast.
The precipitation fell in the form of snow in the below-freezing air across the northern tier states from the Dakotas to New England. The Pacific weather systems were associated with an upper-level trough over the western contiguous U.S while a high-pressure ridge stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the East Coast. The ridge generated a southerly flow that spread warmer-than-normal air from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes and eastward. 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 West beneath the trough. Little to no precipitation fell across the Gulf Coast, southern parts of the Atlantic Coast, the central Plains, and western portions of the southern Plains. It was also drier than normal over parts of the Pacific Northwest.
Wetter-than-normal conditions were widespread across the rest of the West, the northern Plains, and northeastern Texas to the Midwest and Northeast. Drought or abnormal dryness expanded where it continued to dry in parts of the Pacific Northwest, Texas, the Gulf Coast states, and the eastern Carolinas. Drought or abnormal dryness contracted or reduced in intensity where it was wet across much of California and other parts of the West and Plains, as well as part 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 111 million people across the United States including Puerto Rico—about 35.7% 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.