West Virginia is the #8 least drought-ridden state

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September 22, 2021
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West Virginia is the #8 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.

West Virginia by the numbers

- Share of state experiencing drought conditions (20-year average): 4,972 sq. mi. (20.5% of land area); 370,184 people (20.0% of population)
--- Moderate drought: 1,108 sq. mi. (4.6% of land area); 88,510 people (4.8% of population)
--- Severe drought: 251 sq. mi. (1.0% of land area); 20,334 people (1.1% of population)
--- Extreme drought: 33 sq. mi. (0.1% of land area); 2,929 people (0.2% of population)
--- Exceptional drought: zero sq. mi.; no people

Much of West Virginia was in a drought by the fall of 2019, when moderate drought conditions 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 extended into West Virginia.

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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