Drought - September 2003


NCDC transitioned to the nClimDiv dataset on Thursday, March 13, 2014. This was coincident with the release of the February 2014 monthly monitoring report. For details on this transition, please visit our public FTP site and our U.S. Climate Divisional Database site.

U.S. Drought Highlights:


Please Note: The data presented in this drought report are preliminary. Ranks, anomalies, and percent areas may change as more complete data are received and processed.


National Overview

On the national scale,

  • severe to extreme drought affected about 26 percent of the contiguous United States as of the end of September 2003, about the same as last month
  • about 37 percent of the contiguous U.S. fell in the moderate to extreme drought categories (based on the Palmer Drought Index) at the end of September
  • on a broad scale, the last two decades were characterized by unusual wetness with short periods of extensive droughts, whereas the 1930s and 1950s were characterized by prolonged periods of extensive droughts with little wetness (see graph below right)
  • about 16 percent of the contiguous U.S. fell in the severely to extremely wet categories at the end of September
  • 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 in files having names that start with "drd964x" and ending with "txt" (without the quotes).

Regional Overview

Near to above-normal rain fell across parts of the western drought areas during September, but many other areas remained dry. The month was dry across parts of the Great Plains, Great Lakes, and Southeast. The primary stations in Hawaii and much of Alaska were drier than normal during September. The precipitation pattern for the stations in Puerto Rico for the last 4 weeks to 8 weeks was generally drier than normal.

The dryness of September was a contiuation of dry conditions from August across much of the western Great Lakes to Upper Mississippi Valley, from July across parts of the northern Plains, northern Rockies, and Southwest, and June across much of the Pacific Northwest. Even longer-term moisture deficits (last 12 to 24 months) persisted across parts of the Great Lakes to central and northern Plains, Maine, and most of the West.

Some regional highlights:

Citing This Report

NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: Drought for September 2003, published online October 2003, retrieved on October 1, 2014 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/drought/2003/sep.