Drought - June 2002

National Overview

On the national scale,
  • severe drought affected about 36 percent of the contiguous United States as of the end of June 2002, which is a jump of about 5 percent compared to the end of May and a two-month jump of 10 percent compared to the end of April;
  • the coverage of the current (November 1999-present) national-scale drought first 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 general increasing trend for much of the period since then, reaching in June 2002 the peak it had first reached in August 2000 (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 various parts of the U.S. have experienced unusually wet conditions during the last 32 months, little change occurred in the aggregate national wetness picture during much of this period;
  • the percentage of the nation severely wet has remained below about eleven percent during this period, reaching about 2 percent by the end of June 2002 (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 in files having names that start with "drd964x" and ending with "txt" (without the quotes).
U.S. Drought and Wet Spell Area, 1996-present
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U.S. Drought and Wet Spell Area, 1900-present
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Although some areas of the U.S. had above normal precipitation, many areas were very dry. Integrated across the nation, June 2002 precipitation averaged below normal. Twelve of the last 34 months have averaged well below the normal, while only three averaged well above normal (see graph top right). National 2001-2002 precipitation ranks:

Precipitation Ranks for the
Contiguous U.S., 2001-2002
Period Rank
Jun 28th driest
May-Jun 24th driest
Apr-Jun 24th driest
Mar-Jun 30th driest
Feb-Jun 15th driest
Jan-Jun 13th driest
Dec-Jun 19th driest
Nov-Jun 24th driest
Oct-Jun 24th driest
Sep-Jun 26th driest
Aug-Jun 27th driest
Jul-Jun 28th driest
U.S. Precipitation Departure and Normals, January 1998-present
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U.S. Precipitation, June, 1895-2002
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Regional Overview

June was very dry across the mid-Atlantic states of Virginia and the Carolinas and parts of the southern Great Lakes, and hot and dry across much of the western U.S. and adjoining Great Plains. Beneficial rains continued for a fourth month bringing drought relief to a good part of the Northeast. June was dry at the primary stations in Hawaii and many stations in Alaska. June and early July were dry across much of northern and western Puerto Rico.

These overall conditions are 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 mid-June revealed stress on vegetation across much of the southwestern U.S. and in parts of the Plains, northern and central Rockies, and central Appalachians to southern Great Lakes.
  • The USDA Forest Service uses a satellite-based vegetation health index tool to monitor the risk of wildfires. This Greenness Index for late June revealed above-average stress on vegetation across much of the West and Great Plains, as well as parts of the southern Great Lakes and mid-Atlantic regions.
  • The Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) is used by the Wildland Fire Assessment System to monitor the risk of wildfires. The end-of-June KBDI showed dry conditions across much of the southern half of the country. The Forest Service fire danger analysis indicated a high risk of wildfires from the Southwest into the northern and central Great Plains. The fire threat conditions can change rapidly from week to week.

Western U.S. Drought

While above-normal rain fell across parts of the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies, the Northwest region on the whole was drier than normal, with June marking the second consecutive slightly drier than normal month. However, this month marked the tenth and sixth consecutive drier-than-normal month, respectively, for the Southwest and West regions (see graphs below). Water year (October 2001-present) precipitation totals were above average in the Northwest, but totals dropped precipitously toward the Rockies and the Southwest.
Click here for graph showing Southwest Region precipitation departures, January 1998-present
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Click here for graph showing West Region precipitation departures, January 1998-present
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Several wildfires developed in the West during June, with Colorado and Arizona experiencing their largest wildfires ever. According to the June 22 New York Times,
"The Arizona fires pushed national firefighting efforts to an unusual level for June. With 18 large fires burning in eight states Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, declared the country at Level 5, the earliest that has ever been reached. It means that fires are raging in more than two geographical areas, and that they have the potential to exhaust all available federal firefighters and fire equipment."

Seasonal wildfire statistics, according to the National Interagency Fire Center:

As of June 30 Nationwide Number of Acres Burned
2002 2,795,216
2001 1,101,651
2000 1,591,384
10-year Average 1, 090,683
By State Approximate Number of Acres Burned, as of June 28, 2002
Alaska 800,000
Arizona 556,000
Colorado 350,000
New Mexico 253,000

By Region Number of Acres Burned by Wildfires through July 2
2002 (Acres) 1995-2001
(% of Ave.*)
(% of Ave.*)
(% of Ave.*)
Alaska 831,342 227,936 364.7% 120.0 % 212.1%
California & Great Basin 266,094 103,724 256.5% 87.9% 272.1%
North & Central Rockies 433,789 42,827 1012.9% 232.7% 154.4%
Southwest 865,628 201,029 430.6% 233.7% 157.3%
Northwest 7,714 26,959 28.6% 425.0% 58.0%
Eastern Half of U.S. 524,461 667,744 78.5% 104.5% 190.6%
TOTAL 2,929,028 1,270,220 230.6% 137.5% 191.8%
* Percent of 1995-2001 Average as calculated by the USDA.

As of early July (the week ending July 7), 37% of the nation's range and pastures had moisture conditions ranked as poor to very poor by the USDA. Five western states had more than 70% of their range and pastures in poor to very poor conditions:

AZ - 82%, CA - 80%, CO - 84%, NM - 83%, WY - 72%

Several western states had the driest April-June, January-June, and July-June in their 108-year record.

A detailed discussion of drought conditions is available for the following regions and states:

  • Pacific Northwest region
  • West region
  • Southwest region
  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • New Mexico
  • Utah
  • Wyoming
  • Click here for map showing Statewide Precipitation Ranks for January-June 2002
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    Central U.S. Drought

    June 2002 saw an expansion of drought into the central and northern Plains states and a continuation of dry conditions across parts of the southern Plains. This was the seventh consecutive month with below-normal precipitation, regionwide, for the West North Central region and third consecutive dry month, regionwide, for the South region. According to the USDA, moisture conditions in some of the agricultural states grew progressively worse during the month.

    Click here for graph showing West North Central Region precipitation departures, January 1998-present
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    Click here for graph showing South Region precipitation departures, January 1998-present
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    The extreme dryness of the last six months (see map to right) has resulted in precipitation ranks (April-June, January-June) in the top ten driest category for some central states.

    A detailed discussion of drought conditions is available for the following regions and states:

  • West North Central region
  • Nebraska
  • South Dakota
  • South region
  • Click here for map showing 6-month SPI, January-June 2002
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    Eastern U.S. Drought
    Much of the Northeast region experienced continued relief from drought as June 2002 marked the fourth consecutive month with above-normal precipitation. The Southeast region did not fare as well. Southern and central Florida had a very wet June, but much of Virginia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas were dry (see map below left). This month marked the ninth consecutive month with slightly to much below normal precipitation averaged across the Southeast (see graph below right).

    Click here for map showing the Palmer Z Index
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    Click here for graph showing Southeast Region precipitation departures, January 1998-present
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    Severe to extreme long-term drought persisted from southern Pennsylvania to central Georgia. In spite of recent rains, the late 2001 to February 2002 moisture deficits were so severe that many states up and down the east coast had the tenth driest, or drier, July-June on record.

    A detailed discussion of drought conditions is available for the following regions and states:

  • Southeast region
  • South Carolina
  • North Carolina
  • Virginia
  • New Jersey
  • Maryland
  • Delaware
  • Click here for map showing Statewide Precipitation Ranks for July-June 2002
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    Click here for map showing the 12-month SPI for June 2002
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    Click here for map showing the 24-month SPI for June 2002
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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:
    Colorado - Delaware - Delaware River Basin (DE-NJ-NY-PA) - Florida Panhandle - Georgia - Hawaii - Idaho - Kentucky - Maine - Maryland - Missouri - Montana-1 - Montana-2 - Nebraska - New Jersey-1 - New Jersey-2 - New Jersey-3 - New Mexico - North Carolina - Oklahoma-1 - Oklahoma-2 - Oklahoma-3 - Oregon-1 - Oregon-2 - Pennsylvania-1 - Pennsylvania-2 - Pennsylvania-3 - South Carolina - Texas - Vermont - Virginia - Washington - Wyoming

    For additional information on current and past wildfire seasons 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:

    Drought conditions on the Canadian prairies can be found at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Drought Watch page.

    Citing This Report

    NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, State of the Climate: Drought for June 2002, published online July 2002, retrieved on January 20, 2018 from https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/drought/200206.