Drought - March 2005


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 8 percent of the contiguous United States as of the end of March 2005, about the same as last month
  • about 10 percent of the contiguous U.S. fell in the moderate to extreme drought categories (based on the Palmer Drought Index) at the end of March
  • on a broad scale, the previous two decades (1980s and 1990s) 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
  • about 24 percent of the contiguous U.S. fell in the severely to extremely wet categories at the end of March
  • 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

March was wetter than normal across parts of the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies, breaking a string of four very dry months. The month was drier than normal across a wide swath from the southern Plains to the Great Lakes. Unusually warmer than normal temperatures in the Northwest and northern Rockies combined with near to below-normal precipitation to cause short-term evapotranspirative stress in some areas.

The March precipitation pattern at the primary stations in Alaska was mixed. The pattern was also mixed in Hawaii, but mostly wetter than normal in the central islands and drier than normal in the northern and southern islands. In Puerto Rico, most of the island had much below-normal rainfall during March, based on National Weather Service radar estimates of precipitation and on Cooperative station precipitation reports for the last 4 weeks. This marked the second consecutive month with acute moisture shortages across the island (February radar estimates, 8-week Cooperative station precipitation reports). March streamflow averaged near normal for Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

Long-term moisture deficits persisted in many areas. Three-month to six-month dryness was evident for parts of the Southeast. The Pacific Northwest experienced the fourth driest November-March on record this year, which is a continuation of dry conditions that started some six to seven years ago.

The southwestern U.S. has been very wet during the last seven months, with some states having record wet conditions—

but long-term deficits across parts of this area, most of the West, and much of the central to northern Plains, are reflected in the end of March U.S. Drought Monitor map. The Southwest has recovered at the 12 to 24 month timescales, but still shows dryness in some parts at the 36 to 60 month timescales.

Some regional highlights:

Citing This Report

NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: Drought for March 2005, published online April 2005, retrieved on July 22, 2014 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/drought/2005/3.