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Southwest Drought Briefing: February 19, 2021

Event Date
February 19, 2021
Event Time
11:00 am - 11:30 am

Nearly 50% of the Southwestern United States is currently experiencing the most severe drought classification (D4) conditions. The most recent U.S. Drought Monitor indicated that all of the Southwest was experiencing drought, and drought is expected to continue throughout the winter and into spring. This webinar will provide an update of current drought conditions and forecasts for Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada, followed by a demonstration of the new website.


Introduction and Welcome

Speaker: Joel Lisonbee, NOAA/National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS)

  • I would like to acknowledge the USDA Southwest Climate Hub and the Colorado Climate Center for their role in organizing this webinar.
  • The Southwest Drought Briefing gives an updated on conditions and resources for the Southwest. We typically hold these webinars on the third Friday of every month for as long as this region is experiencing extreme drought conditions.
  • Next month's webinar will take place on Friday, March 12 at 11 am MST and will focus on snowpack.



Current Drought Conditions in the Western U.S.

Speaker: Peter Goble, Colorado Climate Center

  • While cold weather puts many drought impacts on hiatus, the Western U.S. is still dealing with considerable hydrological deficits from July to November 2020.
  • Region-wide snowpack is below historical averages, and the season began with a low water table and root zone soils.
  • Wet spring conditions could have a large influence on the coming season, but NOAA's Climate Prediction Center projects increased probabilities of below normal precipitation for March-May.
  • Low runoff is expected in the spring.

Links to resources shared in the webinar:



The New U.S. Drought Portal, 

Speaker: Kelsey Satalino, NOAA/National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS)

  • The new, redesigned launched in January 2021, with improved usability and accessibility.
  • The new website features up-to-date drought conditions from the city and county level to across the globe. View current conditions, key indicators of drought, drought impacts, forecasts/outlooks, and historical conditions at different geographic scales. 
  • Interactive maps and data show drought in new ways. For example, the historical data and conditions page shows three drought datasets side by side: the U.S. Drought Monitor data going back 20 years, standardized precipitation index (SPI) data going back 125 years, and paleoclimate data (e.g., from tree-ring analysis) going back 2,000 years.
  • The website's new “By Sector” section shows drought impacts on different economic sectors, such as agriculture, water utilities, wildfire management, and more.
  • Email questions and feedback on the new website to