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Regional Drought Update Date
April 28, 2022
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Drought Status Update

Drought Status Update for the Midwest


DEWS Regions:
Update Status:

NIDIS and its partners will issue future drought status updates as conditions evolve.

Recent Improvement in Drought Conditions Across the Midwest.

Key Points

  • Significant spring-time precipitation removed lingering drought concerns for most areas of the Upper Midwest that have been experiencing drought conditions since summer into the fall of 2021. 
  • Currently, only 2% of the region is impacted by drought, which is confined to western Iowa. While Iowa has recently seen some drought relief, moderate drought (D1) is still affecting 13% of the state, with severe drought (D2) affecting 2%.
  • Current impacts include below-normal streamflow, limited shallow groundwater supplies, and dry soils in western Iowa.
  • The region has been in a wet pattern recently, which could mean further improvement to drought conditions in the short term
  • However, the seasonal outlooks for May through July 2022 show a greater chance for hotter and drier conditions in the western portions of the Midwest, which is expected to lead to drought persistence in western Iowa, and could potentially lead to drought development across a majority of Iowa, as well as southern Minnesota and northern Missouri.
Current Conditions
U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions: Midwest | April 26, 2022

Current U.S. Drought Monitor map for the Midwest Drought Early Warning System (DEWS) with data valid for April 26, 2022. The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) is updated each Thursday to show the location and intensity of drought across the country. Drought categories show experts’ assessments of conditions related to dryness and drought including observations of how much water is available in streams, lakes, and soils compared to usual for the same time of year. 

U.S. Drought Monitor Categories
Value Map Hex Color
D0 - Abnormally Dry #ffff00
D1 - Moderate Drought #ffcc99
D2 - Severe Drought #f5ad3d
D3 - Extreme Drought #ff0000
D4 - Exceptional Drought #660000
Main Stats
18%
less of the Midwest is in drought than 8 weeks ago
2%
of the Midwest is in drought (D1 or worse)
13%
of Iowa is in moderate to severe drought (D1–D2)

Current Conditions

  • Significant springtime precipitation removed lingering drought concerns for many areas of the Upper Midwest that have been experiencing drought conditions since summer into the fall of 2021. 
  • Currently, only 2% of the region is impacted by drought, which is confined to western Iowa. While Iowa has recently seen some drought relief, moderate drought (D1) is still affecting 13% of the state, with severe drought (D2) affecting 2%.
  • Over the last 8 weeks, many areas across the Upper Midwest improved by one to three categories on the U.S. Drought Monitor (Figure 1). Drought has been a concern for northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin, and eastern Iowa since April 2021, and these areas finally received much-needed precipitation to alleviate long-term drought concerns and impacts.
  • Precipitation since March 1 has been near- to above-normal across a majority of the Midwest. Precipitation ranged from 150%–300% of normal across the Upper Midwest. However, some areas did receive only 25%–75% of normal precipitation, including western Iowa, southern Minnesota, and portions of the Ohio River basin (Figure 2).

Figure 1. 8-Week U.S. Drought Monitor Change Map (Since March 1, 2022)

From March 1 to April 26, many areas across the Upper Midwest improved by one to three categories on the U.S. Drought Monitor .
8-week change map for the U.S. Drought Monitor (from March 1–April 26, 2022). The green areas show where drought status improved, the yellow shows where drought worsened, and the gray areas are where the drought remained the same (during this 8-week period). Source: National Drought Mitigation Center

Figure 2. Percent of Normal Precipitation (%) Since March 1, 2022

Percent of normal precipitation for the Midwest from March 1–April 28, 2022, compared to 1991–2020 normals. Precipitation since March 1st has been near- to above-normal across a majority of the Midwest region.
Percent of normal precipitation from March 1–April 28, 2022, compared to 1991–2020 normals. The orange to deep red color indicates areas that were below normal for the time period, whereas green to purple areas were above normal. Source: Midwest Regional Climate Center cli-MATE maps.

Impacts

  • As expected with above-normal precipitation, streamflows across the Midwest region are near- to above-normal (Figure 3). However, some areas in western and northern Iowa are showing below-normal flow levels. Portions of the Des Moines, Cedar, Upper Iowa, Raccoon, Nishnabotna, Floyd, Boyer, Little Sioux, and Soldier Rivers have moved into below-normal conditions.
  • Shallow groundwater supplies are causing some concern in western Iowa (Figure 4). Water supply staff in western Iowa are saying shallow wells for supply are as low as they’ve ever been. Northern Illinois is also experiencing some lingering groundwater issues as well.
  • Overall, current groundwater impacts in Iowa are likely relatively minor. However, if drought conditions develop or intensify, these areas may be vulnerable to declining shallow groundwater levels and reduced aquifer recharge. 
  • Soil moisture is near- to above-normal across the region, with pockets of below-normal soil moisture in Iowa and southern Minnesota and some lingering dryness in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin (Figure 5).

Report your drought impacts through the Condition Monitoring Observer Reports (CMOR):

Submit Local Drought Impacts

Figure 3. U.S. Geological Survey Streamflow Percentiles – Ending April 28, 2022

14-day average streamflows across the Midwest region are near- to above-normal
14-day average streamflow conditions compared to the historical streamflow from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), ending April 28, 2022. Bright red dots indicate streamflow percentiles that are very low, dark red dots indicate much below normal (less than 10% of normal), orange dots indicate below normal (10%–24%), green dots indicate normal ranges (25%–75%), teal dots indicate above-normal (75%–90%), blue dots represent much above normal (over 90%), and black dots represent high percentiles. Source: USGS via Drought.gov.

Figure 4. Iowa Shallow Groundwater Conditions for March 2022

Western Iowa is experiencing below-normal shallow groundwater conditions.
This map shows streamflow (dots) and shallow groundwater (triangles) that are below-normal across the state of Iowa. Source: Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Iowa Geological Survey.

Figure 5. Past Week Top 1-Meter Soil Moisture Percentile (Valid April 23, 2022)

Top 1-meter soil moisture is near- to above-normal across the Midwest, with pockets of below-normal soil moisture in Iowa and southern Minnesota and lingering dryness in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.
The past week's top 1-meter soil moisture percentile from the North American Land Data Assimilation System (NLDAS)’s VIC model, valid on April 23, 2022. White represents areas with near-normal conditions, yellow to red represents areas with below-normal anomalies and blue shades represent areas that have above-normal anomalies. Source: NASA.

Outlook and Potential Impacts

  • As we move into early May, precipitation from May 6–12 is expected to be below normal across the Great Lakes region, with near-normal precipitation or above-normal precipitation elsewhere (Figure 6).
  • The precipitation outlook for May shows greater chances for above-normal precipitation in the Ohio River Basin, with greater chances for below-normal precipitation in the areas currently experiencing drought (western Iowa) (Figure 7). Temperatures are likely to be below-normal across the region in May.
  • The region has been in a wet pattern recently, which could mean further improvement to drought conditions in the short term. 
  • However, the seasonal outlooks for May through July 2022 show a greater chance for hotter and drier conditions in the western portions of the Midwest, which is expected to lead to drought persistence in western Iowa, and could potentially lead to drought development across a majority of Iowa, as well as southern Minnesota and northern Missouri (Figure 8).
  • Potential impacts include intensification of reduced streamflows and shallow groundwater issues across Iowa, and inadequate moisture for crop growth during the growing season on non-irrigated areas.

Figure 6. Precipitation Outlook for May 6–12, 2022

The 8-14 day precipitation outlook for May 6–12, 2022 favors below-normal precipitation across the Great Lakes region, with above-normal or near-normal conditions elsewhere.
8–14 day precipitation outlook for May 6–12, 2022. The green shades represent areas with a greater chance for above-normal precipitation, brown shades represent areas with a greater chance for below-normal precipitation, and gray represents areas with a greater chance for near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Figure 7. Monthly Precipitation Outlook for May 2022

The May 2022 precipitation outlook favors above-normal precipitation for the Ohio River Basin, and below-normal conditions in the areas experiencing drought (western Iowa).
Monthly precipitation outlook for May 2022. The green shades represent areas with a greater chance for above-normal precipitation, white areas represent equal chances for either above-, near-, or below-normal precipitation, and brown shades represent areas with a greater chance for below-normal precipitation. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Figure 8. U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook for April 21–July 31, 2022

3-month drought outlook for the Midwest. From April 21 to July 31, drought is predicted to develop across western Iowa, southern Minnesota, and northern Missouri.
Seasonal drought outlook for April 21–July 31, 2022, showing the probability that drought will persist, improve, or develop. The brown color shows areas where the drought is likely to persist, and the yellow color shows areas where drought development is likely. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

For More Information

Prepared By

Molly Woloszyn
NOAA/National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS)

Dennis Todey & Laurie Nowatzke
USDA Midwest Climate Hub

Doug Kluck
NOAA/National Centers for Environmental Information

Melissa Widhalm
Midwestern Regional Climate Center/Purdue University

Ray Wolf & Audra Bruschi
NOAA/National Weather Service

Special Thanks

This drought status update is issued in partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to communicate a potential area of concern for drought expansion and/or development within the Midwest U.S. based on recent conditions and the upcoming forecast. NIDIS and its partners will issue future drought status updates as conditions evolve.