On average, drought is one of the most costly natural hazards in the United States each year. Given the significant socioeconomic impacts of drought, the U.S. Drought Monitor was developed in 1999 to operationally assess the spatial extent and intensity of dryness across the United States. The U.S. Drought Monitor is a collaborative effort between Federal and academic partners, including the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Produced on a weekly basis, the U.S. Drought Monitor is a synthesis of multiple indices, outlooks, and impacts depicted on a map and in narrative form. The U.S. Drought Monitor is released each Thursday at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time.
In the spring of 2002, drought experts from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico met to discuss the development of a North American Drought Monitor. Issued monthly since March 2003, the North American Drought Monitor is based on the end-of-month U.S. Drought Monitor and input from scientists in Canada and Mexico. Major participants in the North American drought-monitoring effort include Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, the Meteorological Service of Canada, the National Meteorological Service of Mexico, and the entities involved with the production of the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Each week, OCE meteorologists use a geographic information system to overlay the U.S. Drought Monitor on select maps of major domestic crop and livestock areas. The resulting analyses help highlight agricultural areas impacted by drought, and quantify these impacts in terms of the percent of an agricultural commodity located within varying magnitudes of dryness. OCE meteorologists developed the maps of major U.S. crop and livestock areas using historical data from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. Thus, the following products provide an approximation of current drought impacts on agriculture based on typical (i.e., historical) farming patterns.