Drought - October 2001


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U.S. Drought Highlights:

  • On the national scale, severe drought affected about 18 percent of the contiguous United States as of the end of October 2001
  • Beneficial rain and snow fell over parts of the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies near the end of the month, but much of the western U.S. continued to be plagued by drought
  • Moisture deficits continued across much of the eastern seaboard and parts of the southern Plains

Contents Of This Report:


National Overview

On the national scale,
  • severe drought affected about 18 percent of the contiguous United States as of the end of October 2001;
  • the coverage of the current drought peaked in August 2000 at about 36% of the contiguous U.S., which was as extensive as the major droughts of the last 40 years, but not as large as the "dust bowl" droughts of the 1930's and 1950's;
  • the total drought area decreased to about 10 percent by November 2000, but has shown a steady increasing trend since then (see graph below left);
  • on a broad scale, the last two decades were characterized by unusual wetness with short periods of extensive droughts, whereas the 1930's and 1950's were characterized by prolonged periods of extensive droughts with little wetness (see graph below right);
  • although different parts of the U.S. have experienced unusually wet conditions during the last 25 months, there continues to be little change in the overall national wetness picture;
  • the percentage of the nation severely wet has held steady at about three to eleven percent during this period (see graph below left);
  • a file containing the national monthly percent area severely dry and wet from 1900 to present is available;
  • historical temperature, precipitation, and Palmer drought data from 1895 to present for climate divisions, states, and regions in the contiguous U.S. are available at the Climate Division: Temperature-Precipitation-Drought Data page.
Click here for graphic showing U.S. Drought and Wet Spell Area, 1996-present
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Click here for graphic showing U.S. Drought and Wet Spell Area, 1900-present
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Although some areas of the U.S. had well above normal precipitation, many areas were very dry. October averaged slightly below normal when precipitation is integrated across the nation. Eleven of the last 27 months have averaged well below the normal, while only three averaged well above normal (see graph to right). National 2001 precipitation ranks: Click here for graphic showing U.S. Precipitation Departure and Normals, January 1998-October 2001
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Regional Overview

Beneficial rain and snow near the end of the month brought short-term relief from drought to the Pacific Northwest, however long-term drought continued to plague much of the western U.S. October was dry and warmer than normal from the southern Rockies to California, and dry over parts of the southern Plains. A dry October along the eastern seaboard intensified the drought in the Northeast and parts of the Southeast, with wildfires becoming a growing threat. Stations in the northern islands in Hawaii were dry during October, but the signal was mixed in Alaska. This overall pattern is evident in the following indicators: Two other drought-related monitoring tools are the Vegetation Health Index and the Keetch-Byram Drought Index:
  • NOAA satellite observations of vegetation health from the end of October reveal continued stress on vegetation in parts of the western U.S., including western Texas.
  • The Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) is used by the National Interagency Fire Center to monitor the risk of wildfires. The late October KBDI showed dry conditions over much of the southwestern U.S., southern Plains, and Southeast from the Gulf Coast to mid-Atlantic states. The Forest Service fire danger analysis indicated a continuing risk of wildfires in the southern Rockies to central Plains and parts of Montana, North Dakota, New England, and the Midwest by the end of October.


Click here to go to Top of Page Western U.S. Drought

A moist Pacific system brought short-term relief from the drought to the Pacific Northwest near the end of the month, resulting in above-normal precipitation for October (see graph below left). In spite of the 27th wettest October, long-term moisture deficits remained with the region having the second driest November-October on record in 2001. October was dry in the West region and marked the second consecutive month of very dry conditions in the Southwest region (see graph below right). Highlights:
  • Declared drought emergencies continued in three western states (Washington, Oregon, and Idaho).
  • Oregon had the driest November-October on record in 2001, Idaho second driest, Washington sixth driest, California seventh driest, and Nevada ninth driest.
  • The Southwest region had the ninth driest September-October on record in 2001.
  • The short-term dryness in the Southwest extended into the western sections of the southern Plains, which has been suffering from severe long-term drought.
Click here for graph showing Pacific Northwest region precipitation for November 2000-October 2001
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Click here for graphic showing Pacific Northwest Region Precipitation Anomalies, January 1998 - October 2001
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Click here for graphic showing Southwest Region Precipitation Anomalies, January 1998 - October 2001
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Click here to go to Top of Page Eastern U.S. Drought

October was unusually dry across the eastern seaboard, with especially severe moisture deficits occurring in the Northeast. The dryness is evident in both the amount of precipitation that has fallen and the frequency (number of days) it has fallen (see maps below). Eight states, from North Carolina to Massachusetts, had the ninth driest, or drier, October on record in 2001.

Click here for map showing Departure from Normal Number of Days with Precipitation, October 2001
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Click here for map showing Longest Consecutive Number of Days with No Precipitation, October 2001
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October marked the fourth dry month in a row for the Northeast region (see graph to right). Some highlights: Click here for graphic showing Northeast Region Precipitation Anomalies, January 1998 - October 2001
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In response to the dry conditions, drought watches or warnings were in effect in several counties in Pennsylvania and New York, and New Jersey declared a drought watch for the entire state on October 30. Voluntary conservation measures have been requested in these areas.

The very dry conditions during October led to hundreds of small wildfires in many eastern states from Kentucky and Virginia to South Carolina, and also in Massachusetts. Governor Bob Wise declared a state of emergency for southern West Virginia on October 31, with a total ban on outdoor burning in effect statewide.

October 2001 was the 17th driest October in the 107-year record regionwide for the Southeast. In spite of recent wet conditions, long-term precipitation ranks are still below normal, with 2001 marking the third consecutive dry November-October (see graph to right). Pockets of severe drought lingered in Georgia and the Carolinas. Heavy rains from thunderstorms and tropical systems earlier this year have, for the most part, ended the drought over Florida. Only the long-term indicators, such as the 24-month Standardized Precipitation Index, reveal how bad the state's deficits were. Click here for graphic showing Southeast Region Precipitation, November-October, 1895-2001
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Click here to go to Top of Page Additional Contacts:

Damage due to the drought has been summarized by NOAA and the Office of Global Programs in the Climatological Impacts section of the Climate Information Project. Crop impact information can be found at the USDA NASS (National Agricultural Statistics Service) and Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin pages. Drought statements by local National Weather Service Offices can be found at the NWS Hydrologic Information Center. Drought threat assessments and other information can be found at NOAA's Drought Information Center. Additional drought information can be found at the National Drought Mitigation Center, the USDA's National Agricultural Library, the interim National Drought Council, and the NOAA Paleoclimatology Program. The following states have set up web pages detailing current drought conditions and/or their plans to handle drought emergencies:
Delaware - Delaware River Basin (DE-NJ-NY-PA) - Florida Panhandle - Georgia - Hawaii - Idaho - Kentucky - Maryland - Missouri - Montana-1 - Montana-2 - Nebraska - New Jersey - New Mexico - North Carolina - Oklahoma-1 - Oklahoma-2 - Oregon-1 - Oregon-2 - Pennsylvania-1 - Pennsylvania-2 - South Carolina - Texas - Vermont - Washington - Wyoming

For additional information on the 2001 wildfire season please see the National Interagency Fire Center web site or the U.S. Forest Service Fire and Aviation web site.

NCDC's Drought Recovery Page shows the precipitation required to end or ameliorate droughts and the probability of receiving the required precipitation.

Additional climate monitoring graphics can be found at the Climate Prediction Center's monitoring pages:

Citing This Report

NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: Drought for October 2001, published online November 2001, retrieved on September 1, 2014 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/drought/2001/10.