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States with the worst droughts

  • States with the worst droughts

    The 21st century gave the United States a dose of what the future of climate change has in store. “All of the years on record that were hotter or more disaster-filled came in the past decade,” according to Climate Central in 2019. That record refers to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA climate reports that show the hottest 10 years on record occurred between 1998 and 2018, as did the years with record numbers of weather and climate-related disasters each costing over $1 billion in losses. Among those disasters were several significant, costly, and deadly droughts.

    Right now, virtually all of the South and Central Appalachia—from Virginia down to Florida on the East Coast all the way west to Missouri and down through Louisiana—are enjoying a welcome reprieve. The entire region is virtually drought-free. Much of the rest of the country is not so lucky.

    According to the National Integrated Drought Information System, more than one-fifth of America’s landmass is currently experiencing some level of drought, a situation that’s affecting 35.4 million people. Virtually all of New England is at least abnormally dry and many areas there are experiencing full-blown drought, but no part of the country is suffering more than the West and Southwest. California, Oregon, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico are grappling with dry spells significant enough to be categorized as either “extreme” or “exceptional,” the two most dangerous classifications the government issues.

    Using data from the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM), Stacker ranked each state and Washington D.C., based on how much of the state experienced drought conditions on average in the 20-year period from 2000 to 2020. Seasonal averages are shown for each state as well. The USDM, according to its website, “is a map that shows the location and intensity of drought across the country,” with its data released monthly.

    All told, only six states exhibited a drought average of less than 20% throughout the 20-year average, while the #1 state exhibited over a 76% average. The list also describes conditions that led to drought—or the lack thereof—in each state, while looking at the events leading up to the state's change in drought status over the course of the year.

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  • #51. Ohio

    - Percent of state that experienced drought conditions (20-year average): 15.77%
    --- State with drought in winter: 9.19%
    --- State with drought in spring: 9.24%
    --- State with drought in summer: 20.48%
    --- State with drought in fall: 24.16%

    Ohio’s longest 21st-century drought took place nearly 20 years ago and it lasted 44 weeks, from 2002–2003. Trouble is once again, however, on the horizon. A June 2020 report cited the rapid decline of soil moisture and persistent dry weather as probable indicators that the remainder of the year could be hard on farmers, as several crops were already showing signs of drought stress.

  • #50. Alaska

    - Percent of state that experienced drought conditions (20-year average): 16.42%
    --- State with drought in winter: 13.93%
    --- State with drought in spring: 17.44%
    --- State with drought in summer: 22.20%
    --- State with drought in fall: 12.11%

    July 17, 2018, signaled the beginning of the longest drought on record in the state of Alaska. Finally after several months, the skies opened up and the state got much-needed relief. As of January 2020, all of Alaska has been officially drought-free for the first time since 2018.

  • #49. New York

    - Percent of state that experienced drought conditions (20-year average): 16.70%
    --- State with drought in winter: 12.57%
    --- State with drought in spring: 13.01%
    --- State with drought in summer: 20.79%
    --- State with drought in fall: 20.42%

    Much of New York’s North Country and Adirondack regions are facing drought conditions. It’s been abnormally dry upstate, and places like Syracuse and Jefferson and Lewis counties went into the summer well below their average precipitation levels.

  • #48. Vermont

    - Percent of state that experienced drought conditions (20-year average): 18.14%
    --- State with drought in winter: 18.08%
    --- State with drought in spring: 16.43%
    --- State with drought in summer: 16.02%
    --- State with drought in fall: 22.01%

    New York’s parched North Country region extends into Vermont, and weather conditions don’t recognize state borders. By the end of June, much of Vermont was experiencing a moderate drought. Burlington, for example, received just 0.7 inches of rainfall in June compared to an average of 3 inches.

  • #47. Indiana

    - Percent of state that experienced drought conditions (20-year average): 19.16%
    --- State with drought in winter: 15.20%
    --- State with drought in spring: 12.46%
    --- State with drought in summer: 22.04%
    --- State with drought in fall: 26.93%

    Central Indiana got much-needed drenching rains in the second week of July, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Despite the downpours, virtually all of the region—including Indianapolis, Muncie, and Terre Haute—is currently categorized as “abnormally dry.”

     

  • #46. Pennsylvania

    - Percent of state that experienced drought conditions (20-year average): 19.31%
    --- State with drought in winter: 15.91%
    --- State with drought in spring: 18.70%
    --- State with drought in summer: 19.61%
    --- State with drought in fall: 23.00%

    The abnormally dry conditions that are gripping large swaths of New England and Northern New York have crept into Pennsylvania. It’s 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. Like much of the region, these areas are now bracing not for rainfall but for what’s expected to be a crushing heatwave.

  • #45. Maine

    - Percent of state that experienced drought conditions (20-year average): 20.23%
    --- State with drought in winter: 14.48%
    --- State with drought in spring: 17.83%
    --- State with drought in summer: 24.55%
    --- State with drought in fall: 24.06%

    Much of New England is currently abnormally dry, but few places in the region are suffering as badly as Maine. A record lack of rainfall has plunged about half of the state into moderate drought conditions. The entire state is officially categorized as abnormally dry, and “extreme conditions” are expected to soon touch the state—which, like much of the region, has received only 25%–50% of its normal rainfall over the past 30–60 days.

  • #44. New Hampshire

    - Percent of state that experienced drought conditions (20-year average): 20.36%
    --- State with drought in winter: 16.09%
    --- State with drought in spring: 21.49%
    --- State with drought in summer: 20.89%
    --- State with drought in fall: 22.96%

    Like most of its New England neighbors, New Hampshire is suffering from a significant lack of rainfall, with some portions of the state dealing with a precipitation deficit of a full 7 inches on the year. Most of the state is down 3–4 inches, but that’s as good as it gets. All of southern New Hampshire is officially in a state of drought.

  • #43. New Jersey

    - Percent of state that experienced drought conditions (20-year average): 20.85%
    --- State with drought in winter: 14.49%
    --- State with drought in spring: 20.07%
    --- State with drought in summer: 17.92%
    --- State with drought in fall: 30.95%

    Moderate drought—the first official drought categorization after the most benign classification, “abnormally dry”—is fairly rare in New Jersey, with the state facing that designation only once or twice a decade. “Severe drought” is next, and that happens in the Garden State only once every 10–20 years. Next, there’s the even rarer “extreme drought,” followed by the worst classification: “exceptional drought,” which only happened once in New Jersey in the 21st century.

  • #42. West Virginia

    - Percent of state that experienced drought conditions (20-year average): 20.98%
    --- State with drought in winter: 22.03%
    --- State with drought in spring: 18.28%
    --- State with drought in summer: 13.87%
    --- State with drought in fall: 29.76%

    Much of West Virginia was in a drought by the fall of 2019, when moderate drought conditions were extended into the southern part of the state from the North. It was the last widespread drought there, and although the state mostly emerged, the dry conditions plaguing parts of Pennsylvania have extended into West Virginia.

     

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