Half of the United States Will Continue to be Affected by Drought for Spring 2021

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Drought conditions in much of the United States are forecasted to continue for spring 2021. As parts of the western United States transition to a hotter and drier season, drought conditions are expected to worsen.

Exceptional Drought in the Southwest U.S.

The states experiencing the most intense drought are Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico. These states in the Southwest developed severe to exceptional drought in 2020 as La Niña conditions and a failed 2020 summer monsoon contributed to the lack of rainfall in the region.

Using data from the U.S. Drought Monitor, NASA created a map showing drought conditions on March 23, 2021. The darker red areas on the map in the Southwest show where the drought conditions are the most intense. The map is a consolation of data measurements of climate, soil, and water conditions from more than 350 federal, state, and local observers around the country.

Map of drought conditions in the United States on March 23, 2021.
Map of drought conditions in the United States on March 23, 2021.

Using data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO), surface soil moisture measurements have been mapped for the United States for March 29, 2021. The map shows how much of the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest, North Dakota, Florida, and the Northeast are experiencing a very low level of surface soil moisture.

Red areas on the map show areas with lower soil moisture levels than normal and blue areas show areas with higher soil moisture levels than normal.

Map of surface soil moisture for the United States as of March 29, 2021.  Source: NASA.
Map of surface soil moisture for the United States as of March 29, 2021. Source: NASA.

The state of California just closed out March with five consecutive months of  below-average rain and snow. Overall, this year’s wet season in California was notable for an absence of strong winter storms and a below-average snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.

U.S. Drought Conditions Continue into Spring 2021

Higher than average spring temperatures and low soil moisture will allow drought conditions to intensify and expand into the southern and central Great Plains and Florida according to NOAA’s forecast. On a more positive note, NOAA also forecasts that drought improvement over the spring season is “likely in the Pacific Northwest, Midwest, New England and Hawaii.”

This map produced by NOAA shows forecasted drought conditions across the United States for spring 2021.

Map of U.S. showing where there is a greater than 50% chance of drought persistence, development, or improvement based on short- and long-range statistical and dynamical forecasts during March 18 through June 30, 2021. Map: NOAA NWS CPC
Map of U.S. showing where there is a greater than 50% chance of drought persistence, development, or improvement based on short- and long-range statistical and dynamical forecasts during March 18 through June 30, 2021. Map: NOAA NWS CPC

References

Patel, K. (2021, April 1). Drought conditions continue in spring 2021. NASA Earth Observatory. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/148123/drought-conditions-continue-in-spring-2021

Spring outlook: Drought to persist, expand in U.S. west and high plains. (n.d.). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. https://www.noaa.gov/media-release/spring-outlook-drought-to-persist-expand-in-us-west-and-high-plains

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