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States with the worst droughts

  • States with the worst droughts

    The 21st century gave the United States a dose of what the future of climate change has in store. “All of the years on record that were hotter or more disaster-filled came in the past decade,” according to Climate Central. It refers to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA climate reports that show the hottest 10 years on record occurred between 1998 and 2018, as did the years with record numbers of $1 billion-plus weather- and climate-related disasters. Among those disasters were several significant, costly, and deadly droughts.

    Currently, however, the country is enjoying a reprieve. According to the Weather Channel, drought coverage in the continental United States is at an all-time low for the 21st century, meaning less of the country is experiencing abnormally dry or drought conditions than at any point since 2000. In fact, the wettest six-month period of any year came in 2018, and 2019 offered a multi-month run of top-10 wettest periods in many states. All that precipitation has eliminated lingering drought across much of America.

    Using data from the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM), Stacker ranked each state and Washington D.C., based on how much of the state experienced drought conditions on average from 2014 to 2018. Seasonal averages are shown for each state as well. The USDM, according to its website, “is a map that shows the location and intensity of drought across the country.” 

    All told, 10 states exhibited a drought average of less than 20% throughout the five-year period, while the #1 state exhibits over an 86% average. The list also describes conditions that led to drought, or the lack thereof, in each state, as well as looks at what took place that led to each state's change in drought status over the course of the year.

    You may also like: States with the highest risk of flooding

  • #51. Delaware

    - Percent of state that experienced drought conditions (five-year average): 9.35%
    --- Percent of state with drought in winter: 21.51%
    --- Percent of state with drought in spring: 2.13%
    --- Percent of state with drought in summer: 4.93%
    --- Percent of state with drought in fall: 8.86%

    Delaware is currently free of drought, but it was abnormally dry across much of the state in 2018, with some areas experiencing moderate drought in 2017. That, however, was timid compared to the beginning of the century. Delaware spent 55 weeks gripped in drought starting in 2001, and by August 2002, nearly 75% of the state was struggling under exceptional drought conditions, the most severe category.

  • #50. Ohio

    - Percent of state that experienced drought conditions (five-year average): 9.82%
    --- Percent of state with drought in winter: 1.98%
    --- Percent of state with drought in spring: 4.36%
    --- Percent of state with drought in summer: 15.75%
    --- Percent of state with drought in fall: 16.67%

    The last time Ohio faced drought conditions was in 2017. By October of that year, nearly 15% of the state was suffering from moderate drought.

  • #49. Indiana

    - Percent of state that experienced drought conditions (five-year average): 10.60%
    --- Percent of state with drought in winter: 4.50%
    --- Percent of state with drought in spring: 8.26%
    --- Percent of state with drought in summer: 9.21%
    --- Percent of state with drought in fall: 19.73%

    Although Indiana is not currently experiencing drought, the state's energy sector is preparing for the effects of climate change, which is making winters warmer and summers hotter in Indiana, just as it is in the rest of the country. The state is moving toward clean-burning natural gas and renewable energy like solar and wind as it prepares for wild swings in precipitation, which will likely lead to flooding in the spring and drought in the winter.

  • #48. West Virginia

    - Percent of state that experienced drought conditions (five-year average): 10.61%
    --- Percent of state with drought in winter: 5.19%
    --- Percent of state with drought in spring: 11.58%
    --- Percent of state with drought in summer: 6.82%
    --- Percent of state with drought in fall: 18.25%

    Although West Virginia is currently drought free, one of the worst droughts in the state's history is a vivid memory for many. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Drought of 1999, when all 55 counties were declared federal drought disaster areas and 30% of the state's rural well reserves had dried up.

  • #47. Wisconsin

    - Percent of state that experienced drought conditions (five-year average): 12.17%
    --- Percent of state with drought in winter: 15.81%
    --- Percent of state with drought in spring: 20.61%
    --- Percent of state with drought in summer: 7.67%
    --- Percent of state with drought in fall: 5.14%

    On Sept. 3, 2018, the National Weather Service reported that enough rain had finally fallen to end the abnormally dry and drought conditions that had gripped much of Wisconsin. The state's dairy farmers, however, are suffering most from too much rain, which the Daily Cardinal reports is one of the negative weather patterns plaguing the state.

  • #46. Michigan

    - Percent of state that experienced drought conditions (five-year average): 13.10%
    --- Percent of state with drought in winter: 1.83%
    --- Percent of state with drought in spring: 13.34%
    --- Percent of state with drought in summer: 24.47%
    --- Percent of state with drought in fall: 12.80%

    A dry spell plagued much of Michigan throughout most of 2018, but the hardest-hit regions only experienced moderate drought through much of the summer. All that changed on Aug. 23, however, when eight Michigan counties were listed as suffering from extreme drought.

  • #45. Kentucky

    - Percent of state that experienced drought conditions (five-year average): 13.33%
    --- Percent of state with drought in winter: 10.64%
    --- Percent of state with drought in spring: 9.26%
    --- Percent of state with drought in summer: 10.61%
    --- Percent of state with drought in fall: 22.14%

    Kentucky has plenty of water in 2019, but the state is experiencing a drought of a different kind. There's been a remarkable lack of severe weather in the storm-prone state for dozens of months. There hasn't been a severe thunderstorm warning in Lexington, for example, since August 2018, or a tornado warning since 2017.

  • #44. Alaska

    - Percent of state that experienced drought conditions (five-year average): 15.29%
    --- Percent of state with drought in winter: 14.23%
    --- Percent of state with drought in spring: 20.13%
    --- Percent of state with drought in summer: 20.86%
    --- Percent of state with drought in fall: 6.63%

    By March 2019, all of southeastern Alaska was suffering from an extended drought. A dry, cold winter held back so much precipitation that the city of Ketchikan had to revert to diesel power while the lakes that supply hydropower refilled.

  • #43. Illinois

    - Percent of state that experienced drought conditions (five-year average): 16.83%
    --- Percent of state with drought in winter: 24.61%
    --- Percent of state with drought in spring: 10.83%
    --- Percent of state with drought in summer: 12.91%
    --- Percent of state with drought in fall: 18.83%

    The first state on the list not locked in a tie is Illinois, which is not currently experiencing drought. It was last year, however, as a water shortage gripped much of the state in 2018. The event worried state residents and officials, who compared it to a drought in 2012 that cost Illinois $30 billion. Both year's dry spells occurred during a second-year La Niña weather pattern.

  • #42. Maryland

    - Percent of state that experienced drought conditions (five-year average): 18.83%
    --- Percent of state with drought in winter: 31.32%
    --- Percent of state with drought in spring: 14.94%
    --- Percent of state with drought in summer: 7.02%
    --- Percent of state with drought in fall: 21.82%

    In February 2018, Maryland was coming off one of the driest Januarys on record. Just as it had the year before, drought had the state in such a tight grip that groundwater stores, streams, and ponds had run dry. The state finally got relief, however, and Maryland is now drought free.

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