At one point, the U.S. Drought Monitor map showed the presence of “exceptional drought”, the worst category designated by researchers, across much of California and a large portion of the areas of northern Texas and Oklahoma. A look at the map today shows neither of those areas has a drought problem at all. “Exceptional drought” has become a rarity across the country.
The current U.S. Drought Monitor map shows relatively small areas of “exceptional drought” in a part of North Dakota and a tiny sliver of northeast Montana. The same map shows that nationally, there are some areas which are designated “abnormally dry”. This designation means “some lingering water deficits” and no cause for alarm.
The Drought Monitor’s “Look Ahead” section shows that most of the nation will receive close to normal rainfall. So, the map is not likely to change much soon, if at all.
The drop in the presence of drought to such low levels is not just a recent development. Drought levels are at multi-decade lows. According to recent comments recorded at Climate Central:
“I have been an author of the U.S. Drought Monitor since 2005 and we have had very few instances where there was so little drought, and to see the changes we have in the last year, especially out West, it does astonish me,” Brian Fuchs, of the U.S. Drought Mitigation Center, said in an email.
The last time drought levels across the country were this low was in July 2010, when 8 percent of the U.S. was in drought — then came a remarkable period of deep, damaging drought that led to billions in crop and livestock losses, spurred major water restrictions, and helped fuel terrible wildfires.
The swing in extremes between drought and flood has increased in both time and frequency the same experts say. Among them, there is almost no dissent about the effects of climate change
However, for the time being, the ravages and huge costs of drought are behind most of the country, a reprieve, no matter how short lived.