2020–2022 North American drought

A drought developed in the Western, Midwestern, and Northeastern United States in the summer of 2020.[3] Similar conditions started in other states in August 2020, including Iowa, Nebraska and certain parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota. At the same time, more than 90% of Utah, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico were in some levels of drought.[4] Also in drought conditions were Wyoming, Oregon and Arizona.

2020–22 North American drought
Map of drought conditions in the United States as of September 1, 2020, showing areas of "severe" and "extreme" drought over the Western United States, and areas of "abnormally dry" and "moderate" drought across the Midwest and Northeast United States
Map from the US Drought Monitor showing the growth of "extreme" or "exceptional" drought conditions over much of the Western United States as of June 1, 2021
Map from the US Drought Monitor showing conditions as of October 12, 2021, showing the reduction of drought in the East but the growth of extreme and exceptional drought conditions throughout the west
Map from the US Drought Monitor showing conditions as of August 16, 2022, showing the reduction of drought in the North but growth of extreme and exceptional drought conditions throughout the south, growth of drought in the northeast, while drought conditions continues but improves in the west
Downbound barge rates
In late 2022 there was low river levels that caused two backups on the Lower Mississippi River that held up over 100 tow boats with 2,000 barge units and caused barge rates to soar[1][2]
Mississippi River levels at Memphis, Tennessee
  Major flood stage
  Moderate flood stage
  Flood stage
  Action stage
  River levels
  Minimum operating limit (-12 feet)

Over the course of 2021, conditions improved in the Northeast but worsened in the Western United States. As of June 2021, "nearly the entire region (97 percent) [was] facing abnormally dry conditions."[5] Drought also affected a wide area of Mexico in 2021, as well as the prairies of Canada.

The drought conditions of 2020 were associated with a moderate La Niña episode that had developed in the Pacific Ocean.[6]

United StatesEdit


By autumn 2020, the drought in the Western States was the worst since similar drought conditions seven years earlier.[7]

The 2020–2021 drought was described by some as possibly the worst drought in modern history for the Western U.S.[8]

By late spring 2021, dry conditions had expanded to almost the entire state of California and to neighboring Nevada.[9]

In July 2021, after two more extremely dry winters, Lake Powell dropped to its lowest level since 1969 when the reservoir was first filling.[10][11] Lake Mead fell to a level expected to trigger federally mandated cuts to Arizona and Nevada's water supplies for the first time in history.[12]

The first quarter of 2022 was the driest on record in California and Nevada.[13] Despite June having slightly above average precipitation in California, the state still had its driest first half.[14] This persisted even during the extreme monsoon season, but eased a bit. Since July 28, 2022, Lake Mead rose 1%.[15]


Iowa received widespread rain in September; that improved the dry conditions for the eastern region of the state.[16] But the western half of the state dealt with severe-to-extreme drought problems which extended past 2020 and into 2021. By late April and early May 2021, though, northern, central and northeastern Iowa had fallen back into dry conditions.[17] By mid-August 2021, drought problems in Iowa had worsened; certain areas across the state were affected with extreme drought conditions by August 13. The northwest and east-central regions of Iowa were especially adversely affected with extreme dry conditions by mid-August.[18][19]

The 2020–2022 droughts were also affecting Michigan, southern Wisconsin, most of North Dakota and northwestern South Dakota.[20][21]

In northeastern Illinois near the Chicago metropolitan area, May 2021 was the driest since 2012.[22] As of June 1, 2021, Chicago had only received barely half of one inch of rainfall due to drought in the area.[23] April 2021 was one of the city's driest Aprils on record; only .71 inches (1.8 cm) fell in Chicago in April 2021.[24]

By August 12, 2021, Minnesota was having the worst drought spells since the major drought in the final two years of the late 1980s.[25] Just over seven percent of the state, in particular, nine counties in the northwestern part of Minnesota were having exceptional drought. That was the first time since 1988 the state had been under exceptional dry conditions.[26] The drought conditions in Minnesota during 2021 caused serious comparisons to extremely similar dry conditions eighty-five years prior.[27]


By late August/early September 2020, the drought conditions in several regions of the United States had worsened. The New England states were also under severe to extreme drought conditions.[28]

The Northeastern United States were out of drought conditions by the beginning of June 2021.[29] However, throughout July 2022, drought returned and intensified across the Northeast.[30] Newark, New Jersey had their driest July on record in 2022.[31] Massachusetts was hit particularly hard, as by August 16, over 40% of the state was in extreme drought.[32] Almost all of Rhode Island was in extreme drought in mid-August, after the 3rd driest July on record.[33][34] August was the driest in New York City since 1994.[35] However, drought improved in September. By September 27, no part of Maine was in severe drought, and most of the state was out of drought.[36] With precipitation increasing in the fall, especially after Hurricane Nicole, less then 10% of the Northeast was in any kind of drought.[37]


By June 2021, moderate drought conditions had developed in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida.[38]


As of April 2021, Mexico was facing one of the most widespread droughts in its history, with 85% of the country experiencing drought conditions.[39]

As of March/April 2022, 30% of Mexico, especially northern, still has serious, critical and major drought problems.[40][41]


As of spring 2021, extreme drought threatened the southern corners of Manitoba and Saskatchewan after an abnormally dry fall and winter.[42]

See alsoEdit




  1. ^ https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-10-09/huge-barge-backup-eases-on-mississippi-freeing-tons-of-cargo
  2. ^ Plume, Karl (October 10, 2022). "Mississippi River reopens to barge traffic after low water closures - U.S. Coast Guard". Reuters.
  3. ^ "The 2020 Drought Update". Drought.gov. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  4. ^ "A Third of the U.S. Faces Drought". Earth Observatory. August 13, 2020. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  5. ^ Kammeyer, Cora (June 4, 2021). "The 2021 Western Drought: What to Expect as Conditions Worsen". Pacific Institute. Archived from the original on June 4, 2021. Retrieved June 6, 2021.
  6. ^ Sullivan, Brian; Rojanasakul, Mira (January 23, 2021). "La Niña Roars, Unleashing Fire, Drought and Floods Worldwide". www.bloomberg.com. Retrieved June 6, 2021.
  7. ^ "The Drought in the West is the Worst Since 2013". Washington Post. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  8. ^ "The Western US May be Entering its Most Severe Drought in Modern History". CBS News. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  9. ^ "See Where Drought Conditions Have Expanded in California". NBC Los Angeles. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  10. ^ Brian Maffly (July 22, 2021). "Lake Powell level about to hit a historic low as West's water crisis deepens". Salt Lake Tribune.
  11. ^ Michael Elizabeth Sakas (July 24, 2021). "Lake Powell Just Hit Its Lowest Level On Record. Here's What That Means For Colorado And States That Rely On It". Colorado Public Radio.
  12. ^ Oliver Milman (July 13, 2021). "Severe drought threatens Hoover dam reservoir – and water for US west". The Guardian.
  13. ^ "March 2022 National Climate Report". NOAA. Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  14. ^ June 2022 National Climate Report, NOAA
  15. ^ West’s Drought Recovery Still Years Away Despite Recent Monsoons, Bloomberg, August 15, 2022
  16. ^ "The Drought Conditions Ease in Iowa, Thanks to Widespread Rain". The Des Moines Register. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  17. ^ "The Drought Monitor Shows a Southern Iowa Improvement". KMA Land. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  18. ^ "The Iowa Crops are Weathering the Drought". The Iowa Torch. August 13, 2021. Retrieved August 15, 2021.
  19. ^ "Transportation, Drought Concerns and the Iowa Fair". The Daily Nonpareil. Retrieved August 15, 2021.
  20. ^ "Spotty Rain Improves Drought for Parts of the Upper Midwest". The Duluth News Tribune. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  21. ^ "Drought Forcing Farmers in the Dakotas to Make Difficult Decisions". Successful Farming. April 12, 2021. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  22. ^ "Severe Drought in Cook County". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  23. ^ "The Drought Deepens During Chicago's 4th-Driest Start to the Year". WGN. May 21, 2021. Retrieved June 3, 2021."The Drought Deepens During Chicago's 4th-Driest Start to the Year". WGN. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  24. ^ "Chicago Sees One of the Driest Aprils on Record as the Moderate Drought Continues". NBC Chicago. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  25. ^ "Drought Becoming the Worst in Minnesota Since 1988". KMSP Fox 9. August 12, 2021. Retrieved August 15, 2021.
  26. ^ "Despite the Recent Rainfall, Drought Worsens in Minnesota". Twin Cities Pioneer Press. August 13, 2021. Retrieved August 15, 2021.
  27. ^ "85 Years Later, Minnesota Farmers Remember the Drought". Inforum. August 10, 2021. Retrieved August 15, 2021.
  28. ^ "U.S. Drought Area is Expanding Rapidly". MLive. October 20, 2020. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  29. ^ "Northeast Drought Update". Northeast Regional Climate Center. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  30. ^ Flash drought intensifies, causing agriculture concerns in the Plains and water shortages in the Northeast, CNN, July 28, 2022
  31. ^ Newark recorded their driest July on record, with just 0.55" of rainfall the entire month. The previous record was 0.84" from 1932. The drier than normal stretch has contributed to an expanding drought in the region. #NYwx #CTwx #NJwx, NWS New York, Twitter, August 3, 2022
  32. ^ All of Massachusetts now in drought amid alarming expansion of dry conditions in Northeast, CNN, August 18, 2022
  33. ^ "July ends as the third-driest and fourth-warmest on record". Turnto10. July 31, 2022. Retrieved November 17, 2022.
  34. ^ "Most of Rhode Island and southeast Massachusetts is in extreme drought". August 18, 2022.
  35. ^ This summer was one for the record books, NY1, September 5, 2022
  36. ^ Ogrysko, Nicole (September 29, 2022). "Above-average September rainfall ends drought for much of Maine". Maine Pubic. Retrieved November 1, 2022.
  37. ^ "Northeast Drought Update". Northeast Regional Climate Center. November 17, 2022. Retrieved November 17, 2022.
  38. ^ "Drought Monitor Narrative". droughtmonitor.unl.edu. Retrieved June 6, 2021.
  39. ^ "Widespread Drought in Mexico". earthobservatory.nasa.gov. May 4, 2021. Retrieved June 6, 2021.
  40. ^ "Areas of Mexico at Most Risk for Running out of Water". InfoBae NewsMagazine. Retrieved May 22, 2022.
  41. ^ "Researchers Warn of Droughts in Early 2022 or Beyond". Fresh Fruit Portal. January 4, 2022. Retrieved May 22, 2022.
  42. ^ MacIntosh, Cameron; Pauls, Karen (May 15, 2021). "'Extreme drought' is threatening parts of the Prairies, says Agriculture Canada". CBC. Retrieved June 6, 2021.