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Regional Drought Update Date
January 20, 2023
Site Section
Drought Status Update

Drought Status Update for the Midwest U.S.

DEWS Regions:
Update Status:

NIDIS and its partners will issue future Midwest Drought Status Updates as conditions evolve.

Despite Winter Improvements, Drought Continues in Parts of the Midwest.

This Midwest Drought Status Update is released in coordination with the January 19, 2023 North Central U.S. Climate and Drought Outlook Webinar. View the webinar for more details.

Key Points

  • Portions of the Midwest region have seen significant improvement in drought conditions since the beginning of winter, particularly across areas in the Ohio River Basin. 
  • Currently, 19% of the Midwest region is in drought (moderate to exceptional), which is 28% less than eight weeks ago in late November.
  • Despite the improvement in some areas, extreme to exceptional drought (D3–D4) persists across northwest Iowa. Moderate to severe drought (D1–D2) also remains across Minnesota and Michigan
  • Northwest Iowa, Minnesota, and western Wisconsin have received above-normal precipitation since December 1, 2022. This precipitation has been helpful to add water to the landscape. However, the ability to improve drought and replenish soil moisture, which was very low at the end of fall, is limited when the ground is frozen. Unfortunately, it is too early to determine the full benefit of the winter precipitation thus far.
  • The February outlook shows the chance for above-normal precipitation to continue across most of the region, particularly the Great Lakes and Ohio River Basin. Far-western portions of the region that are in drought (western Iowa and northwest Missouri) have equal chances for above-, near-, or below-normal precipitation. 
  • Continued above-normal precipitation this winter will likely be beneficial for drought improvement. However, if soils are frozen, this will limit the ability to replenish soil moisture and therefore improve drought ahead of the upcoming growing season. 
  • In addition, above-normal precipitation in the winter is not a significant amount of water, as this on average is the driest time of year. Therefore, we will need multiple episodes of soaking rainfall and/or snow melting over thawed soils to significantly improve the areas still in drought.
Current Conditions
U.S. Drought Monitor | Midwest

U.S. Drought Monitor Categories

Main Stats
of the Midwest is in drought (D1–D4)
less is in drought than 2 weeks ago
of the Midwest is classified as abnormally dry (D0)

U.S. Drought Monitor 8-Week Change Map

From November 22, 2022 to January 17, 2023, much of the Midwest saw one to three category drought improvements.
8-week change map for the U.S. Drought Monitor, showing where drought has improved (green to blue), is unchanged (gray), or worsened (yellow to brown) since November 22, 2022. Source: National Drought Mitigation Center.

February 2023 Precipitation Outlook

Odds favor above-normal precipitation for much of the Midwest in February 2023, with the highest chances in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and northern Kentucky.
Monthly precipitation outlook for February 2023. 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.

Report your Drought Impacts through Condition Monitoring Observer Reports (CMOR):

Report local impacts

For More Information

Prepared By

Molly Woloszyn
NOAA/National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), CIRES/CU Boulder

Doug Kluck
NOAA/National Centers for Environmental Information

Dennis Todey
USDA Midwest Climate Hub


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 North Central U.S. based on recent conditions and the upcoming forecast. NIDIS and its partners will issue future drought status updates as conditions evolve.