2020 is kicking off on a moist note, with the amount of drought impacting the United States down from the prior week. The new year is starting with only 9.5% of the U.S. in a drought; that compares favorably to the beginning of 2019, when 18.7% of the U.S. saw drought conditions. Only 2 states are experiencing “extreme” or “exceptional” drought: Hawaii and Texas; even so, the areas of those states seeing these very severe drought conditions are relatively small. The 9.5% that 2020 kicks off with is down from the 10.5% it was at the week earlier.
The most severe drought conditions in the country are confined to the northwestern tip of Hawaii’s Big Island. There, 0.2% of the state is experiencing an “exceptional drought” which has the potential to create crop and pasture losses and general shortages of water which could prompt water emergencies. The U.S. Drought Monitor started in 2000. Since 2000, the longest duration of drought in Hawaii lasted 388 weeks beginning on April 22, 2008 and ended on September 22, 2015. The most intense period of drought occurred the week of March 2, 2010 where “exceptional drought” affected 6.46% of Hawaii land –roughly 30x more than what is seen today.
South central Texas is also seeing severe drought conditions. While not as “exceptional” as Hawaii’s dry spot, the Texas drought is considered “extreme” with 0.7% of the state experiencing such conditions. The worst of the drought in Texas is west of Austin and San Antonio near the border with Coahuila, Mexico.
Severe drought is also being experienced in portions of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. Overall, 18.9 million people in the United States are experiencing drought conditions. While that number may seem high, it is actually quite low since drought cycles do occur naturally from time to time throughout the United States. Much of the southeast that saw bad drought conditions last fall have recovered while California remains free of any drought conditions.