The U.S. Drought Monitor is produced to give society an indication of current drought conditions in the United States. It is made viewable to the public on a weekly basis at 7 a.m. on Thursday morning. The map is meant to give visitors a sense of the magnitude or intensity of drought conditions in their particular area.
The monitor displays 5 different levels of drought conditions, which include the following, in order of increasing magnitude: Abnormally dry (D0), Moderate Drought (D1), Severe Drought (D2), Extreme Drought (D3), and Exceptional Drought (D4). Abnormally dry conditions can be thought of as the beginning signs of drought, which can usually be associated with short term periods of a dry environment. As a drought worsens to a moderate level, crops will start to demonstrate signs of damage and in the hydrologic sector water shortages become more common. When a severe drought impends itself on an area, crops are beginning to diminish through extensive damages by lack of moisture. As these factors become more widespread, the magnitude gets upgraded to an extreme drought. Exceptional drought represents the highest magnitude with water emergencies being administered in the area of concern. These magnitudes are based upon several factors such as streamflow, soil moisture, and the Palmer Drought Index. To determine if your area is experiencing drought conditions and of what magnitude, simply match the color on the map with the corresponding drought intensity. The map also offers the ability to click on your respective region and zoom in to get a more precise drought measurement in your area.