Where in the Nation are droughts or very low flows occurring now? How can I see these sites on a map and get to the data?

To view the USGS streamflow information on drought, see the drought map on our WaterWatch site, which shows below-normal, 7-day average streamflow compared to historical streamflow for the United States.

Links to additional maps and drought data are listed on our Drought website and the U.S. Drought Portal.

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What are the long-term effects of climate change?

Scientists have predicted that long-term effects of climate change will include a decrease in sea ice and an increase in permafrost thawing, an increase in heat waves and heavy precipitation, and decreased water resources in semi-arid regions. Below are some of the regional impacts of global change forecast by the Intergovernmental Panel on...

How can climate change affect natural disasters?

With increasing global surface temperatures the possibility of more droughts and increased intensity of storms will likely occur. As more water vapor is evaporated into the atmosphere it becomes fuel for more powerful storms to develop. More heat in the atmosphere and warmer ocean surface temperatures can lead to increased wind speeds in tropical...

What are some of the signs of climate change?

• Temperatures are rising world-wide due to greenhouse gases trapping more heat in the atmosphere. • Droughts are becoming longer and more extreme around the world. • Tropical storms becoming more severe due to warmer ocean water temperatures. • As temperatures rise there is less snowpack in mountain ranges and polar areas and the snow melts...

Why doesn't a drought end when it rains?

Rainfall in any form will provide some drought relief. A good analogy might be how medicine and illness relate to each other. A single dose of medicine can alleviate symptoms of illness, but it usually takes a sustained program of medication to cure an illness. Likewise, a single rainstorm will not break the drought, but it might provide temporary...

When does a drought begin and end?

The beginning of a drought is difficult to determine. Several weeks, months, or even years might pass before people know that a drought is occurring. The end of a drought can occur as gradually as it began. The first evidence of drought is usually seen in records of rainfall. Within a short period of time, the amount of moisture in soils can begin...

What causes drought?

A drought is a period of drier-than-normal conditions that results in water-related problems. The amount of precipitation at a particular location varies from year to year, but over a period of years, the average amount is fairly constant. In the deserts of the Southwest, the average precipitation is less than 3 inches per year. In contrast, the...
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Date published: September 18, 2018

USGS Science – Leading the Way for Preparedness

Learn About USGS Hazards Science and More About National Preparedness Month: The very nature of natural hazards means that they have the potential to impact a majority of Americans every year.  USGS science provides part of the foundation for emergency preparedness whenever and wherever disaster strikes.

Date published: July 12, 2017

New Warning System Identifies Flash Drought Quickly

Agricultural crops can wither in a flash when the days turn hot, the air dries, the rain stops and moisture evaporates quickly from the soil. A new early warning system can help alert managers and others as drought begins to happen.

Date published: June 5, 2017

New USGS Science Plan Designed to Help Plan for Drought Effects on People, Communities, and Ecosystems

The U. S. Geological Survey is poised to bring a dynamic array of science and tools to help decision-makers manage and offset effects of increased drought across the United States, according to a drought plan report released today.

Date published: October 6, 2015

Unprecedented Drought in the West

Drought has left the West parched and thirsty. Families, businesses, and farmers all need water, as do fish, wildlife, and their habitats.

Date published: September 8, 2015

Low 2015 Snowpack and River Flows Studied to Provide Insight Into Future Droughts

U.S. Geological Survey hydrologic technicians are currently taking measurements from hundreds of streams and rivers across the western United States as part of a low flow study.

Attribution: Water Resources
Date published: December 8, 2014

Data-driven Insights on the California Drought

A newly released interactive California Drought visualization website aims to provide the public with atlas-like, state-wide coverage of the drought and a timeline of its impacts on water resources.

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OK drought watch example
April 13, 2017

OK drought watch example

OK drought watch example.

Map of below normal 7-day average streamflow compared to historical streamflow for the day of year (Tennessee)
September 26, 2016

Tennessee Droughtwatch

Map of below normal 7-day average streamflow compared to historical streamflow for the day of year (Tennessee)

Screenshot of Waterwatch website drought page
April 27, 2016

waterwatch drought

photo of small stream of water through reservoir and some beached rowboats
November 14, 2001

Drought - Schoharie Reservoir 2001

Drought - Schoharie Reservoir 2001

DroughtWatch for Georgia, from USGS WaterWatch
November 30, 2000

DroughtWatch for Georgia, from USGS WaterWatch

DoughtWatch Maps for Georgia, from USGS WaterWatch

The USGS WaterWatch system offers maps and data about drought in the United States, along with more detailed information for each state.

This map shows below normal 28-day average streamflow compared to historical streamflow for the day of year. 

Image: Vegetation Drought

Vegetation Drought

The Vegetation Drought Response Index (VegDRI) incorporates satellite observations of vegetation to monitor at a finer spatial detail than other commonly used drought indicators.

Image: Drought

Drought

Lake Hartwell, SC.

Dry Lake bed in Spruce Run New Jersey

Spruce Run Drought

View of the access ramp to the lake from the dry lake bed during drought conditions in Spruce Run , New Jersey