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Climate and Drought Outlook for the United States

The September 2020 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) update indicated that overall, the coupled ocean-atmosphere system was consistent with La Niña conditions in August 2020. La Niña conditions are present and predicted to likely continue through the winter in the Northern Hemisphere (~75% chance). To read more, click here.

The NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) three-month outlook (from September through December) is forecasting above-normal temperatures across most of the United States. Portions of the Southwest and northern Alaska are projected to have the highest probability of experiencing above-average temperatures (70 to 80 percent). Large areas of the West, Southwest, South, and Northeast are projected to have a 50 to 60 percent chance of above-normal temperatures. No areas of the contiguous U.S. are projected to experience below-normal temperatures over the next three months. To view NOAA CPC updates, click here.

This map depicts the locations of below, near, or above normal temperatures during the three-month period of September through December 2020. (Map courtesy of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center).

The NOAA CPC three-month outlook forecasts above-normal precipitation across areas of the Northwest and northern Alaska (33 to 50 percent). In addition, NOAA's updated 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook predicts that an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season is most likely (85% chance), with only a 10% chance of near-normal.  The updated outlook calls for a 70% probability for each of the following ranges during the 2020 hurricane season, which runs from June 1st to November 30th: 19 to 25 named storms (winds of 39 mph or greater), 7 to 11 hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or greater), and 3 to 6 major hurricanes (winds 111 mph or greater). These totals include the named storms and hurricanes already recorded to date. To learn about potential hurricane outlooks around the country this year, read the Updated 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook, NOAA Press Release here.

In contrast, the NOAA CPC three-month outlook projects below-normal precipitation across most of the southern U.S. The highest probability of below-normal precipitation is projected in Texas, New Mexico, and southern Oklahoma (50 to 60 percent). The lack of precipitation in these areas is projected to trigger further development or intensification of drought conditions (see the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook below). To view an interactive map of NOAA’s Seasonal Climate Outlook, click here.


This map depicts the locations of below, near, or above precipitation during the three-month period of September through December 2020. (Map courtesy of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center).

According to the NOAA U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook, covering September through December, existing drought conditions are expected to persist throughout many states in the West, Southwest, Midwest, and South. Further drought development is predicted to likely occur across large portions of California, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Mississippi, as well as other areas surrounding these states. It is projected that the rest of the areas previously under drought, notably areas in the Northeast and Northwest, will either improve or drought conditions will be alleviated entirely. To view the latest NOAA U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook map, click here.

This map depicts a nationwide outlook of seasonal drought during the period of September through December 2020. (Map courtesy of NOAA/NWS/NCEP/Climate Prediction Center).

The links below will direct you to the NOAA Climate Prediction Center, which includes information on ENSO, climate, and drought outlooks, as well as other forecasts and models.

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TagsLa Nina, Forecasts, Drought Outlook, Drought Maps, Climate,