May 10, 2019

This Week, The U.S. Is The Least Dry It's Been In At Least 20 Years

A well-moisturized United States set a new record in this week's update of the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM), with more than 90 percent of the country not experiencing any type of drought or "abnormally dry" conditions. This is the greatest expanse of the contiguous United States that's escaped unusual dryness since the USDM began issuing its analyses on January 4, 2000.

This is the fourth week in a row we've set an all-time record for the amount of land that's seen on-par or excessive hydration. The only regions experiencing dry conditions at the moment are a chunk of the southeast, a lingering-but-much-improved drought in the Four Corners region, and the long-term drought in the Pacific Northwest that steadily improved through the winter and early spring months.

Bob Henson of Weather Underground reported this week that the United States just endured its wettest 12-month period on record, with records dating all the way back to 1895. Recently, an assortment of storm systems over the last couple of months provided ample opportunities for rain and snow from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic seaboard. Above-average snowfall in the northern Plains and Upper Midwest set the stage for record river flooding downstream once it started to melt this spring. Ample rainstorms across the West Coast allowed the entire state of California to completely eradicate its drought—and even see many of its reservoirs approach 100 percent capacity.

Strictly from a drought-is-bad perspective, the May 7 update is probably the best drought monitor we'll see for a long, long time. It took a long time to get here. It wasn't too long ago that it felt like the epic droughts in California, Texas, and the southeast would never end.

We're almost six years removed from the July 17, 2012 update of the USDM, which showed a record high of 80.75 percent of the United States in some form of dryness or drought. The weeks-long heat wave that summer was infamously miserable, the effects of which included the destructive derecho that tore across the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic on June 29, 2012.

The drought monitor is analyzed every Tuesday and the results are released every Thursday morning. Subsequent drought monitor updates likely won't change much from what we're seeing this week. The greatest chance for drought relief exists in parts of the southeast, while warm and dry conditions will likely contribute to a spread of dry/drought conditions in the Pacific Northwest.

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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I contribute to The Weather Network as a digital writer, and I've written for Forbes, the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, Popular Science, Mental Floss, and Gawker's The Vane. My latest book, The Skies Above, is now available. My first book, The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, arrived in October 2015.