2020: A look back at drought

Weather

2020 has been a very dry year across the state. Believe it or not, we started the year in decent shape with about 68% of the state under abnormally dry to severe drought. Only about 13% of the state was under severe drought at the time.

Comparing the first and last Drought Monitor of 2020


Jump to the last drought update of 2020, valid on December 29, and now we see 100% of the state covered in Moderate drought or higher, over 90% of that is at least Severe drought with over 27% ranked as Exceptional drought. How did we get here?

Drought progression in 2020


We began to see a sharp increase in Severe and Extreme drought levels moving from April to May and from there drought continued to rapidly grow thanks to a dry and hot summer. By August 100% of the state was classified as Abnormally Dry or higher, something that hasn’t happened since 2012.

In September a La Niña developed, worsening our outlook for the Fall and Winter months regarding rain and snow. By October, 100% of the state had reached Moderate drought conditions or higher. With La Niña holding strong into winter drought continued to worsen with little improvements to be seen from infrequent rain and snow events.

Looking forward through 2021


Is there any hope in sight for the new year? There could be! According to the Climate Prediction Center, the current La Niña has a very high chance, 95%, of continuing through March. This means there is little chance of improvement any time soon. However, there’s hope for a transition out of La Niña in the Spring with a 50% chance of a “neutral” forecast from April through June. Neutral means that neither La Niña or El Niño conditions are present. An El Niño would be ideal, but the likelihood of one developing this year is incredibly low.

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