Drought - September 2001


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U.S. Drought Highlights:

Contents Of This Report:


National Overview

On the national scale,
  • severe drought affected just under 20 percent of the contiguous United States as of the end of September 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 24 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, 1996-2001
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Click here for graphic showing U.S. Drought and Wet Spell Area, 1900-2001
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Although some areas of the U.S. had well above normal precipitation, many areas were very dry. September averaged slightly below normal when precipitation is integrated across the nation. Eleven of the last 26 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-September 2001
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Regional Overview

Dry conditions in the western U.S., coupled with unusually hot temperatures this month, exacerbated the long-term drought over much of the region. Rain from a series of cold fronts brought relief to parts of the Northeast, however drought lingered in northern New England and along the Great Lakes. In the Southeast, heavy rains from Tropical Storm Gabrielle and a series of cold fronts ended drought over much of Florida, however areas of long-term moisture deficits remained from northern Florida to the Carolinas. Parts of the southern Plains were soaked by tropical moisture, but other areas were missed by the heavy rains. Drought persisted across parts of Texas and Arkansas. The drought signal was mixed in Alaska and Hawaii, with many stations having below-normal precipitation during September. This overall pattern is evident in: 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 September revealed continued stress on vegetation in parts of the West, Great Lakes, and western Texas.
  • The Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) is used by the National Interagency Fire Center to monitor the risk of wildfires. The late September KBDI showed dry conditions over much of the West, northern New England, and from Georgia to South Carolina in the Southeast. The Forest Service fire danger analysis indicated a continuing risk of wildfires in the western and southwestern U.S. by the end of September.


Top of Page Western U.S. Drought

Rainfall across much of the western U.S. was below normal during September as evidenced by the station precipitation reports, statewide precipitation ranks, and Palmer Z Index. The month was characterized by unusually warm temperatures as well which exacerbated the drought, with streams and reservoirs reaching record or near-record low levels in many areas. Long-term moisture deficits remained severe, especially in the northwestern quarter of the country. Highlights:
Percent of Normal Precipitation for September 2001
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Pacific Northwest Region Precipitation Anomalies, January 1998 - September 2001
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October 2000-September 2001 statewide precipitation ranks
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September was dry and unusually hot across much of the West and Southwest regions. July-September is normally the wet season for the Southwest (see graph below left). In 2001, the Southwest region had the ...
Southwest Region Precipitation Anomalies, January 1998 - September 2001
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Southwest Region July-September Precipitation, 1895-2001
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Top of Page Southeast and Great Plains Drought

Heavy rains fell across much of the area from Florida to eastern Texas and Oklahoma during September (see map below left). Short-term drought in Florida was vanquished, however low aquifers and long-term precipitation deficits persisted in northern Florida. Areas of long-term drought also continued in parts of Arkansas, Texas, and Georgia to the Carolinas (see map below right).

U.S. short-term drought areas, September 2001
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U.S. hydrologic drought areas, September 2001
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Despite the heavy rains of recent months, long-term conditions averaged across the Southeast region remained dry. The 2000-2001 water year ranked as the 26th driest October-September on record and marked the third consecutive water year with below average precipitation (see graph below right). Highlights:

Southeast Region Precipitation Anomalies, January 1998 - September 2001
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Southeast Region Precipitation, October-September, 1895-2001
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Top of Page Northeast and Great Lakes Region Drought

September 2001 was the third consecutive dry month for the Northeast region (see graph below left). Heavy rains brought relief to parts of the region, but drought persisted over northern New England and along the Great Lakes. Some highlights:
  • 15th driest July-September and tenth driest October-September (see graph below right) regionwide.
  • Driest April-September in the 107-year record for Maine.
  • Second driest April-September for New Hampshire and Vermont.
  • The drought in the Northeast U.S. didn't stop at the border. Many Canadian farmers in Nova Scotia, parts of which have reportedly been affected by dry conditions 4 of the past 5 years, were considering giving up their livelihood altogether.

Northeast Region Precipitation Anomalies, January 1998 - September 2001
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Northeast Region Precipitation, October-September, 1895-2001
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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 - 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 - Washington

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 September 2001, published online October 2001, retrieved on October 24, 2014 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/drought/2001/9.