Characteristics and predictability of midwestern united states drought

Andrew Hoell, Trent W. Ford, Molly Woloszyn, Jason A. Otkin, Jon Eischeid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Characteristics and predictability of drought in the midwestern United States, spanning the from the Great Plains to the Ohio Valley, at local and regional scales are examined during 1916-2015. Given vast differences in hydroclimatic variability across the Midwest, drought is evaluated in four regions identified using a hierarchical clustering algorithm applied to an integrated drought index based on soil moisture, snow water equivalent, and 3-month runoff from land surface models forced by observed analyses. Highlighting the regions containing the Ohio Valley (OV) and Northern Great Plains (NGP), the OV demonstrates a preference for subannual droughts, the timing of which can lead to prevalent dry epochs, while the NGP demonstrates a preference for annual-to-multiannual droughts. Regional drought variations are closely related to precipitation, resulting in a higher likelihood of drought onset or demise during wet seasons: March-November in the NGP and all year in the OV, with a preference for March-May and September-November. Due to the distinct dry season in the NGP, there is a higher likelihood of longer drought persistence, as the NGPis 4 times more likely to experience drought lasting at least one year compared to the OV. While drought variability in all regions and seasons is related to atmospheric wave trains spanning the Pacific-North American sector, longer-lead predictability is limited to the OV in December-February because it is the only region/season related to slow-varying sea surface temperatures consistent with El Niño-Southern Oscillation. The wave trains in all other regions appear to be generated in the atmosphere, highlighting the importance of internal atmospheric variability in shaping Midwest drought.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3087-3105
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Climate variability
  • Drought
  • ENSO
  • Trends

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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