According to the May 23, 2023 U.S. Drought Monitor, moderate to exceptional drought covers 16.1% of the United States including Puerto Rico, a decrease from last week’s 17.0%. The worst drought categories (extreme to exceptional drought) decreased from 3.6% last week to 3.1%.
A strong high-pressure ridge dominated the upper-level circulation over western North America during this U.S. Drought Monitor week (May 17-23), with an upper-level trough over eastern Canada. This pattern resulted in a northwesterly flow over the northeastern contiguous U.S. (CONUS).
The week began with a leftover cold front draped across the southern contiguous U.S. It was reinforced by additional cold fronts moving in the northwesterly flow as the week progressed. Surface low-pressure systems developed along the frontal boundaries, and these brought areas of above-normal precipitation to the Southwest and parts of the southern Plains, Southeast, and New England. The week was drier than normal for the rest of the contiguous U.S., except for spotty wet areas in the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies. Alaska was generally warmer and drier than normal beneath the ridge, Puerto Rico was wetter than normal for the drought monitor period, and Hawaii had a mixed precipitation anomaly pattern. Weekly temperatures averaged warmer than normal beneath the ridge across the West and northern Plains, as well as Florida and parts of the Gulf of Mexico Coast. However, temperatures averaged near to cooler than normal from the southern Plains to the East Coast due to the influence of the cold fronts.
Drought or abnormal dryness expanded or intensified in a few areas in the Pacific Northwest and northern and central Plains to Midwest. But drought or abnormal dryness contracted or reduced in intensity across other parts of the West, large parts of the central to southern Plains, and parts of the Southeast, New England, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii.
Nationally, contraction exceeded expansion, with the nationwide moderate to exceptional drought area decreasing this week. Abnormal dryness and drought are currently affecting over 77 million people across the United States including Puerto Rico—about 24.9% of the population.
In addition to Drought.gov, you can find further information on the current drought 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. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s World Agriculture Outlook Board also provides information about the drought’s influence on crops and livestock.