US drought footprint continues to shrink

by Brad Rippey, USDA Meteorologist

3-4-16 Drought Monitor

During the 4-week period ending on March 1, 2016, contiguous U.S. drought coverage fell to 14.30 percent—a decrease of 1.18 percentage points.  This also represents the smallest areal coverage of U.S. drought in nearly 5½ years, since October 12, 2010.  The U.S. drought minimum of 2010—7.74 percent coverage on July 6—occurred in the wake of the most recently completed El Niño, which lasted from the summer of 2009 to the spring of 2010. Since mid-October 2015, stormy weather in many parts of the country—in part driven by a strong El Niño—has significantly reduced the U.S. drought footprint from 34.78 to 14.30 percent—a drop of 20.48 percentage points. In February, however, disappointingly dry weather covered much of the West.  For example, the average water content of the high-elevation Sierra Nevada snowpack was nearly steady during February at 20 to 22 inches, with few storms hitting key watershed areas.  Since February is typically an important month for Sierra Nevada snow pack accumulation, the percent of average snow pack dropped from about 115 percent of average on February 1 to just 85 percent by month’s end. READ MORE…

Leave a Comment