October 23, 2022

U.S. Dryness Hits Highest Extent This Century Amid Very Quiet October


It's been a while since I've had to write anything around here.

It's kinda nice, isn't it?

We've seen an exceptionally quiet October across the United States this year. Hardly any big storms, no tropical systems making landfall, pretty much no urgent disasters for once. 

The pattern that's brought us such a serene October left its mark—even if it doesn't seem like it.

This week's update of the United States Drought Monitor found that 82.23% of the United States was either "abnormally dry" or mired in full-fledged drought conditions.

That's the highest level of dryness measured across the United States since the USDM began keeping track at the beginning of 2000. The previous high-water mark (er, low-water mark?) was 80.76% coverage just over a decade ago on July 17, 2012. 

Here's what the map looked like on that day ten years ago:

We're probably going to see some improvement over the next couple of days if current forecasts pan out.

A cold front stretching off a low-pressure system swirling into the Canadian Prairies will spark several opportunities for severe weather heading into the first half of the workweek. Much of the severe threat will target the southern states, bringing a risk for damaging winds, large hail, and possibly even a few tornadoes.

(As an aside, and no surprise here, but it's also been a very quiet month for severe weather so far. An average October over the past ten years sees about 575 reports of severe weather, while this month has only logged 237 reports through the morning of October 23rd.)

A new low-pressure system will develop along that cold front heading toward the middle of the week, enhancing rainfall totals over parts of the Plains and Midwest. Some areas in parts of Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas could even deal with localized flooding.

Farther west, a train of storms rolling in from the northeastern Pacific will bring drenching rains to the Northwest, where they could really use some precipitation after an exceptionally warm and dry fall. The Weather Prediction Center's seven-day forecast of 5+ inches of rain across much of the Pacific Northwest will put a dent in the ongoing drought across the region.

Elsewhere, though, it's going to be another unremarkable week in an otherwise unremarkable month.

Enjoy it while it lasts.

[Satellite: NOAA]

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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.