Pennsylvania is the #5 least drought-ridden state

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September 22, 2021
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Pennsylvania is the #5 least drought-ridden state

Nearly one-third of Americans experienced a weather disaster this summer, giving them first-hand experience into a future of extreme hurricanes, wildfires, storms, and floods caused by global climate change. Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA both show rapid warming in the 21st century, with the past decade being the hottest on record. According to The Washington Post, the cost of responding to these weather disasters is more than $81 billion per year.

Among those disasters were several significant, costly, and deadly droughts. Droughts are among the most destructive forces in nature—only hurricanes are more economically damaging to the United States. Destroyed crops ripple through the economy, with animal feed prices increasing, which can indirectly raise the price of meats and animal products like milk and cheese. The annual losses due to drought are near $9 billion per year. Droughts also contribute to wildfires, increasing the likelihood of ignition and making them more extreme when they do happen.

Stacker ranked each state and Washington D.C., based on the average percentage of the state land that experienced drought conditions in the 20-year period from 2000 to March 2021, using data from the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM). The USDM categories drought conditions using a five point scale ranging from "abnormally dry," indicating some short-term crop dryness or a lingering water deficit, to "exceptional drought," a serious condition involving a water emergency that leads to widespread crop/pasture losses.

Pennsylvania by the numbers

- Share of state experiencing drought conditions (20-year average): 9,158 sq. mi. (20.2% of land area); 2,454,188 people (19.3% of population)
--- Moderate drought: 1,951 sq. mi. (4.3% of land area); 708,732 people (5.6% of population)
--- Severe drought: 341 sq. mi. (0.8% of land area); 199,041 people (1.6% of population)
--- Extreme drought: 69 sq. mi. (0.2% of land area); 72,441 people (0.6% of population)
--- Exceptional drought: zero sq. mi.; 15 people

Abnormally dry conditions gripped large swaths of New England and Northern New York, then Pennsylvania, in summer 2020. Conditions were particularly bad on the state’s southern border with West Virginia and the Lehigh Valley area, which is home to the historic towns of Bethlehem and Allentown. The statewide drought watch finally ended in early February 2021.

The entire national list, including descriptions of the conditions that led to or prevented drought in each state and the events leading up to the state's change in drought status, can be found here. Continue reading to learn which states experience the worst droughts.

Most drought-ridden states

#1. Arizona
- Share of state experiencing drought conditions (20-year average): 87,702 sq. mi. (76.9% of land area); 4,867,057 people (76.1% of population)
#2. Nevada
- Share of state experiencing drought conditions (20-year average): 78,717 sq. mi. (71.2% of land area); 1,942,485 people (71.9% of population)
#3. New Mexico
- Share of state experiencing drought conditions (20-year average): 84,806 sq. mi. (69.8% of land area); 1,455,107 people (70.7% of population)

Least drought-ridden states

#1. Ohio
- Share of state experiencing drought conditions (20-year average): 6,631 sq. mi. (16.1% of land area); 1,815,050 people (15.7% of population)
#2. Alaska
- Share of state experiencing drought conditions (20-year average): 95,420 sq. mi. (16.4% of land area); 159,582 people (23.2% of population)
#3. New York
- Share of state experiencing drought conditions (20-year average): 8,721 sq. mi. (18.0% of land area); 4,174,482 people (21.5% of population)

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