Are We In a Drought?

United States Drought Monitor (screenshot from

2 August 2020

It’s been so dry in western Pennsylvania this summer that we find ourselves wishing for rain. Yesterday some areas were lucky. It rained 0.61 inches at Pittsburgh’s airport but not throughout the region. Precipitation is still down -2.24 inches since June 1. Are we in a drought?

The US. Drought Monitor map (28 July 2020 above) shows drought conditions and severity across the country. Pale orange in southwestern Pennsylvania indicates areas of Moderate Drought with short-term impacts (“S“). Yellow is Abnormally Dry.

The map above changes quickly if it rains heavily one day. The Drought Severity Index (Long Term Palmer) map, below, charts prolonged abnormal dryness or wetness and matches what gardeners and farmers are dealing with. Southwestern PA has felt like it’s in a drought and, yes, according to the Palmer Index the situation is Severe. (Black on the map is missing data.)

Long Term Palmer Drought Severity Index, 25 July 2020 (map from NOAA)

Our situation in Pennsylvania is mild, though. The real concern is out West where the Drought Monitor is bright red (Extreme Drought) with long term impacts (“L“) and the Palmer Index is dark orange.

West Texas is suffering the double whammy of rampant COVID-19 + extreme drought. Today’s a good day to count our blessings in southwestern Pennsylvania.

(maps from US. Drought Monitor and Drought Severity Index)

2 thoughts on “Are We In a Drought?

  1. This summer is the first time since moving here (9 years ago) that I can remember seeing some grass turn brown and go dormant during the summer (though of course that could just be my memory failing). I was used to seeing grass turn brown for the summer when I was growing up (I spent a large part of my youth in Oklahoma and western Tennessee and brown grass during the summer is norm there) but it feels so strange to see it happen here.

  2. This year I saw snakes in the yard in April. The last time I saw snakes in April we had a drought year. People have also seen rats, that also happened during the last drought, several years ago. Rainy years I generally don’t see either one. The snakes and the rats must know.

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