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Regional Drought Update Date
August 25, 2023
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Drought Status Update

Drought Status Update for the Midwest U.S.

DEWS Regions:
Update Status:

Future Drought Status Updates will be issued as conditions evolve.

Drought and Low Water Levels Likely to Worsen with Dry and Hot Forecast Persisting into September

Resources for Monitoring Drought & Heat Risk

Heat Health Resources

Key Points

  • According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, drought is currently impacting 40% of the Midwest region, primarily across the Upper Midwest and south into Iowa and Missouri (Figure 1). 
  • 78% of Wisconsin is experiencing drought, with a small portion of northern Wisconsin in the highest level of drought—exceptional drought (D4). This is the first time that D4 drought has impacted Wisconsin since the inception of the Drought Monitor in 2000.
  • The region has been experiencing a significant heat wave over the last week, with persistent heat index values over 100°F. Many areas have been without rainfall as well (Figure 2), resulting in the persistence of drought conditions and worsening of drought conditions in Minnesota and Wisconsin (Figure 3).
  • Negative drought impacts remain prevalent across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Missouri. Impacts include limited soil moisture for vegetation and potential crop yield reduction, poor pasture conditions forcing supplementary feeding for livestock, low surface water on streams and ponds/lakes, above-normal wildfire activity in Wisconsin, and the implementation of water conservation measures.
  • The Upper Mississippi River levels remain very low, with a majority of the river below low flow thresholds. The Ohio River at Cairo, IL dropped almost ten feet since August 16 (Figure 4). Lower stages are expected to continue downstream to the Lower Mississippi River throughout the next week. Restrictions remain in place for navigation to reduce loads, and up to 17 dredges are operating along the entire length of the Mississippi River in order to maintain the 9-foot navigation channel.
  • The forecasts and outlooks through early- to mid-September show the persistence of hot and dry weather will likely continue. Forecasts call for some rainfall over August 25–September 1 in portions of the Midwest, but widespread significant rainfall is limited (Figure 5). 
  • There will be a brief reprieve from the heat towards the end of August, but the hot conditions are forecast to return in the August 31–September 6 time frame (Figure 6). Dry conditions are also likely to persist through early September (Figure 7).
  • Potential impacts of the continued hot and dry conditions include the continuation of current impacts listed above, insufficient moisture for soybeans, which are in a critical growth stage right now, and increased fire risk.
  • The Ohio River is forecast to have below-normal flows in September, and low stages are expected to persist throughout the length of the Mississippi River. These low flows and stages will likely impact industry and navigation.
Main Stats
of the Midwest is in drought (D1–D4)
greater drought coverage than 3 months ago
of the Midwest is classified as abnormally dry (D0) or in drought

Report Your Local Impacts

As conditions evolve, accurate reports on conditions and drought impacts are critical. Whether your area is currently wet, close to normal, or dry, please consider reporting conditions and any drought impacts you see or hear via the Condition Monitoring Observer Reports (CMOR) from the National Drought Mitigation Center. If you are already a CoCoRaHS observer, we encourage you to submit a Condition Monitoring Report.

Report Impacts

Current Conditions

Figure 1. U.S. Drought Monitor for the Midwest (Valid August 22, 2023)

As of August 22, 39.5% of the Midwest is in drought. Severe to extreme drought is present in Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
The U.S. Drought Monitor depicts the location and intensity of drought across the country using 5 classifications: Abnormally Dry (D0), showing areas that may be going into or are coming out of drought, and four levels of drought (D1–D4). This map depicts drought conditions across the Midwest U.S. as of August 22, 2023. Source: National Drought Mitigation Center, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Figure 2. 7-Day Accumulated Precipitation (inches) (August 17–23, 2023) 

Over the past 7 days, much of Iowa, Missouri, and Minnesota saw little to no rainfall. The largest rainfall amounts in the Midwest (1+ inches) fell in northern Wisconsin and northern/central Michigan.
Accumulated precipitation (inches) across the Midwest from August 17–23, 2023. The colors represent how much precipitation was received in inches, with gray less than 0.01 inches, green ranging from 0.1-0.75 inches, and blue to purple over 0.75 inches. Source: Midwestern Regional Climate Center Climate Watch Maps.

Figure 3. 1-Week U.S. Drought Monitor Change Map (Since August 15, 2023)

Parts of Minnesota and Iowa have seen 1-category degradations since last week, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Meanwhile, much of Michigan saw improvements.
1-week U.S. Drought Monitor change map, showing where drought has worsened (yellow to orange), is unchanged (gray), or has improved (green) since August 15, 2023. Source: National Drought Mitigation Center.

Figure 4. Ohio River Stage at Cairo, IL as of August 25, 2023

The Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois dropped almost ten feet since August 16.
Hydrograph of the Ohio River stage (in feet) at Cairo, Illinois valid at 7 a.m. on August 25, 2023. The blue line indicates observed levels, while the purple line with squares shows forecast levels into the future, through September 5, 2023. Source: National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Center

Outlooks & Forecasts

Figure 5. Quantitative Precipitation Forecast for the Next 7 Days (August 25–September 1, 2023)

The 7-day quantitative precipitation forecast calls for some rainfall over the Midwest, but widespread significant rainfall is limited, and many areas will receive less than 0.5 inch (or none at all).
7-day Quantitative Precipitation Forecast for August 25–September 1, 2023, which shows the possibility for total precipitation accumulation during this time frame. Source: National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center, via

Figure 6. 8–14 Day Temperature Outlook (Valid August 31–September 6, 2023)

From August 31 through September 6, odds favor above-normal temperatures across the Midwest.
The 8–14 day temperature outlook for August 31–September 6, 2023. The red shades represent areas with a greater chance for above-normal temperatures, gray areas represent near-normal temperatures, and blue shades represent areas with a greater chance for below-normal temperatures. Source: NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, via

Figure 7. 8–14 Day Precipitation Outlook (Valid August 31–September 6, 2023)

From August 31 through September 6, odds favor below-normal precipitation across the Midwest, except for northwestern Minnesota, where near-normal conditions are likely.
The 8–14 day precipitation outlook for August 31–September 6, 2023. The green shades represent areas with a greater chance for above-normal precipitation, gray areas represent near-normal precipitation, and brown shades represent areas with a greater chance for below-normal precipitation. Source: NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, via


Resources for Monitoring Drought & Heat Risk

Heat Health Resources

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 & Laura Nowatske
USDA Midwest Climate Hub

Audra Bruschi
NOAA/National Weather Service Central Region

Jim Noel & Mike Welvaert
NOAA/Ohio and North Central River Forecast Center

Melissa Widhalm
Midwestern Regional Climate Center/Purdue University

Hunter Jones & Morgan Zabow
NOAA/National Integrated Heat Health Information System

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