This week’s weather question Meteorologist Cody Nickel breaks down what a drought is and the different levels that are associated with it.

According to the National Weather Service glossary a drought is defined as a deficiency of moisture that results in adverse impacts on people, animals or vegetation over an area.

The United States Drought Monitor issued every Thursday by the The National Drought Mitigation Center from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, uses five levels to determine the severity of drought conditions.

  • Abnormally Dry:
    • Going into drought – short-term dryness slowing planting, growth of crops or pastures
    • Coming out of drought – some lingering water deficits, pastures and crops not fully recovered
  • Moderate:
    • Some damage to crops, pastures
    • Streams, reservoirs, or wells low, some water shortages developing or imminent
    • Voluntary water-use restrictions requested
  • Severe:
    • Crop or pasture losses likely
    • Water shortages common
    • Water restrictions imposed
  • Extreme:
    • Major crop/pasture losses
    • Widespread water shortages or restrictions
  • Exceptional:
    • Exceptional and widespread crop/pasture losses
    • Shortages of water in reservoirs, streams, and wells creating water emergencies

If you have a weather question, email Meteorologist Cody Nickel at