According to a report from NASA’s Earth Observatory…
At the end of April 2017, just 6 percent of the United States was afflicted by drought, the lowest level in 17 years of analysis by the U.S. Drought Monitor. That’s a substantial turnaround from a few years ago, when long and short term droughts spread across much of the nation.
The news marks a downward trend from mid-2011, when many areas of the country began to experience drier-than-average weather. That summer, a headline in the U.S. Drought Monitor read: “‘Exceptional drought’ record for United States set in July.” By July 12, almost 12 percent of the contiguous United States was in an “exceptional” drought—including states as far flung as Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Florida.
“Two parts of the country that have composed a big portion of [its] drought area in the last decade, Texas and California, now have mostly normal conditions,” said Matthew Rodell, a hydrologist at NASA. “Texas’s drought broke in 2015, and California’s drought was alleviated by atmospheric rivers that brought heavy rains earlier this year. Combine that with recent precipitation across much of the northwestern and central parts of the nation, and the result is a much-wetter-than-normal map.”
Conditions have since taken a 180-degree turn. Several seasons of heavy rains in the south and southeast increased soil moisture—but also caused flooding in some instances. States that were scorched by wildfires in 2016—parts of the Carolinas, Tennessee and Virginia—have been saturated with recent downpours. California, which endured a record-setting drought for several years, has soaked up the moisture in the past nine months. On April 7, 2017, Governor Jerry Brown lifted the state of emergency in most areas.
While plentiful rain signals an end to some record-breaking dry spells, multiple years of unusually hot, dry weather have left lasting damage, killing millions of trees and slowing down crop production.