National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
How Dry Is It?
Abnormally Dry Conditions
At times, below normal precipitation will lead to a lack of ground water and worsening drought conditions in Arkansas. Check out the latest conditions below.
 
Monitoring Drought in Arkansas
 
Drought Status
 
Moderate to severe drought (D1/D2) conditions existed in extreme northwest Arkansas on 10/13/2020.

There was a moderate to severe drought (D1/D2) in extreme northwest Arkansas in mid-October. Next Page Update: November 1

 
Drought Conditions (Percent Area)
Category Coverage
None 92.82%
D0-D4 7.18%
D1-D4 2.85%
D2-D4 0.55%
D3-D4 0%
D4 0%
In the picture: Moderate to severe drought (D1/D2) conditions existed in extreme northwest Arkansas on 10/13/2020.
 
As of October 18th, the wildfire danger was low statewide and there were no burn bans.
 
 
Drought conditions as of 10/13/2020.
In the picture: Drought conditions as of 10/13/2020.
 

Across the country, moderate to exceptional drought (D1 to D4) conditions were gradually spreading to the east from the Pacific Coast to the Rockies, Plains, upper Midwest, and mid-Mississippi Valley. There was also a moderate to extreme drought (D1 to D3) from the Ohio Valley to New England.

For the most part, there were no drought worries locally, at least not yet. It was wet to very wet across much of Arkansas in September, especially in central and southern sections of the state. This was mainly due to showers associated with the remnants of Tropical Storm Beta late in the month. Rainfall was more than two inches above average at El Dorado (Union County), Fort Smith (Sebastian County), and Texarkana (Miller County). The northwest missed out on the downpours, and it was very dry. Precipitation was over two inches below normal at Fayetteville (Washington County).

 

Several inches of rain dumped in southeast Arkansas in the forty eight hour period (shown in twenty four hour increments) ending at 700 am CDT on 10/11/2020.
In the picture: Several inches of rain dumped in southeast Arkansas in the forty eight hour period (shown in twenty four hour increments) ending at 700 am CDT on 10/11/2020.
 

Following Beta was Hurricane Delta in early October, and this resulted in another round of downpours and several inches of rain in the southeast. There was nary a drop of liquid in much of the north and west, and rainfall deficits were two inches or more at Fayetteville (Washington County) and Texarkana (Miller County) through the 14th.

 

Precipitation in October, 2020 (Through the 14th)
Site Amount Normal +/- % of Normal
Fayetteville (NW AR) 0.00 2.00 -2.00 0%
Harrison (NC AR) TRACE 1.53 -1.53 0%
Jonesboro (NE AR) 1.46 1.87 -0.41 78%
Fort Smith (WC AR) TRACE 1.86 -1.86 0%
Little Rock (C AR) 0.56 2.01 -1.45 28%
West Memphis (EC AR) 1.93 1.86 +0.07 104%
Texarkana (SW AR) TRACE 2.04 -2.04 0%
El Dorado (SC AR) 1.36 2.20 -0.84 62%
Pine Bluff (SE AR) 3.61 2.09 +1.52 173%

 

The dryness in the northwest was persistent since the beginning of summer. At Highfill (Benton County), 8.02 inches of rain was measured from June 1st through October 14th, which was subpar by 10.10 inches (44 percent of normal).

 

Precipitation in 2020 (June 1 Through October 14)
Site Amount Normal +/- % of Normal
Fayetteville (NW AR) 10.31 18.50 -8.19 56%
Highfill (NW AR) 8.02 18.12 -10.10 44%

 

The soil was wet to very wet in many areas east of the Rockies on 07/31/2020. It was dry to very dry farther to the west. By early September, the dryness intensified in the west, and it also dried out in New England. Moisture increased markedly from Arkansas to the Carolinas and Virginia. Not much changed by the end of the month. The driest areas were in the west and northeast, and slow drying occurred in moist areas such as the northern Plains and upper Midwest. 
Soil Moisture (07/31)  |  Soil Moisture (09/03)
Soil Moisture (09/30)
In the pictures: The soil was wet to very wet in many areas east of the Rockies on 07/31/2020. It was dry to very dry farther to the west. By early September, the dryness intensified in the west, and it also dried out in New England. Moisture increased markedly from Arkansas to the Carolinas and Virginia. Not much changed by the end of the month. The driest areas were in the west and northeast, and slow drying occurred in moist areas such as the northern Plains and upper Midwest. 
 

For the year so far (through October 14th), amounts were eight to more than twelve inches above normal at many locations. Surpluses of rain were highest (by over twenty inches in some cases) in west central and southwest Arkansas. Totals were closer to normal (by a few inches) in portions of the north/northeast, and even a little below normal in the far northwest.

 

Precipitation in 2020 (Through October 14th)
Site Amount Normal +/- % of Normal
Fayetteville (NW AR) 38.01 38.71 -0.70 98%
Harrison (NC AR) 41.15 34.69 +6.46 119%
Jonesboro (NE AR) 45.35 36.04 +9.31 126%
Fort Smith (WC AR) 48.77 35.27 +13.50 138%
Little Rock (C AR) 49.84 36.60 +13.24 136%
West Memphis (EC AR) 43.69 39.51 +4.18 111%
Texarkana (SW AR) 59.64 36.89 +22.75 162%
El Dorado (SC AR) 54.60 39.86 +14.74 137%
Pine Bluff (SE AR) 51.87 37.97 +13.90 137%

 

Too much rain to begin the year and river flooding led to a lack of planting by farmers. The Black, Cache, Ouachita, and lower White Rivers were high to overflowing at times through the spring. Fields were either under water or too wet for use through much of the beginning of the growing season. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a report on August 12th, and it was mentioned that the state had 1.1 million unplanted (or prevented) acres. This was 3rd highest in the nation behind North Dakota (2.6 million acres) and South Dakota (1.2 million acres).

 

It was wet to very wet across much of Arkansas in 2019.
Precipitation  |  Departure From Normal  |  Percent of Normal
In the pictures: It was wet to very wet across much of Arkansas in 2019.
 

Frequent cloudbursts have kept drought from becoming an issue locally. For example, there was a moderate drought (D1) in the northeast (Mississippi County) in August. Along came the remnants of Hurricane Laura, and it was over. Fleeting dry spells were noted in 2019 as well. From the fall into the winter, there was a moderate to severe drought (D1/D2) briefly in southwest Arkansas following a very dry (and hot) September and an even drier December.

Drought really never had a chance to gain momentum in 2019 because the sky opened way too much. There was an excess of precipitation by more than a foot at Fayetteville (Washington County), Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Harrison (Boone County), Jonesboro (Craighead County), Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), and West Memphis (Crittenden County).

 

Precipitation in 2019
Site Amount Normal +/- % of Normal
Fayetteville (NW AR) 65.26 48.51 +16.75 135%
Harrison (NC AR) 56.98 44.14 +12.84 129%
Jonesboro (NE AR) 65.89 48.10 +17.79 137%
Fort Smith (WC AR) 67.50 45.46 +22.04 148%
Little Rock (C AR) 60.46 49.75 +10.71 122%
West Memphis (EC AR) 73.86 52.23 +20.63 141%
Texarkana (SW AR) 51.53 49.65 +1.88 104%
El Dorado (SC AR) 60.64 52.92 +7.72 115%
Pine Bluff (SE AR) 63.96 51.15 +12.81 125%

 

During the summer (June through August), the NMME (North American Multi-Model Ensemble) called for wet weather from the upper Midwest to the southeast states (including Arkansas). The NMME outlook is drier locally in the fall (September through November).
NMME Precipitation Outlook (Jun-Aug)  |  NMME Precipitation Outlook (Sep-Nov)
In the pictures: During the summer (June through August), the NMME (North American Multi-Model Ensemble) called for wet weather from the upper Midwest to the southeast states (including Arkansas). The NMME outlook is drier locally in the fall (September through November).
 

Looking ahead, while summer (June through August) was largely wet, changes are coming this fall (October and November). Dryness to the west may very well continue advancing into Arkansas.

 

Drought outlook through January, 2021.
In the picture: Drought outlook through January, 2021.
 

We are trending toward a weak to moderate La Niña, meaning that the water is cooling along the equator in the Pacific Ocean. This will likely lead to a drier period that may last into at least the early winter, and some risk of a developing drought in parts of the state. At the same time, it will be very active in the tropics, with at least a chance of significant rain if the remnants of a tropical system (similar to Laura, Beta, and Delta) head this way.

 

Precipitation Statistics (2014-2018)
Site 2018 +/- 2017 +/- 2016 +/- 2015 +/- 2014 +/- Total +/-
Fayetteville (NW AR) 46.63 -2.15 51.22 +2.71 33.37 -15.14 65.71 +17.20 39.08 -9.43 -6.81
Harrison (NC AR) 47.78 +3.64 40.89 -3.25 35.41 -8.73 62.64 +18.50 41.20 -2.94 +7.22
Jonesboro (NE AR) 67.80 +19.70 46.07 -2.03 52.56 +4.46 64.53 +16.43 44.15 -3.95 +34.61
Fort Smith (WC AR) 54.17 +8.71 47.96 +2.50 31.18 -14.28 73.93 +28.47 42.14 -3.32 +22.08
Little Rock (C AR) 71.41 +21.66 47.27 -2.48 56.12 +6.37 61.23 +11.48 48.13 -1.62 +35.41
West Memphis (EC AR) 55.49 +3.26 46.64 -5.59 53.02 +0.79 49.04 -3.19 49.08 -3.15 -7.88
Texarkana (SW AR) 54.95 +5.30 50.03 +0.38 49.33 -0.32 63.54 +13.89 35.24 -14.41 +4.84
El Dorado (SC AR) 58.98 +6.06 46.70 -6.22 61.64 +8.72 59.94 +7.02 41.03 -11.89 +3.69
Pine Bluff (SE AR) 76.83 +25.68 50.80 -0.35 54.38 +3.23 51.31 +0.16 41.41 -9.74 +18.98

 

In recent years, when the rain stopped coming and very dry conditions developed, it was a short term worry. Drought breakers such as a deluge from mid-November to mid-December, 2011 took care of the problem.

 

Thirty day rainfall through 600 am CST on 12/11/2011. Twelve to more than eighteen inches of rain was measured from Mena (Polk County) to Mount Ida (Montgomery County), Russellville (Pope County), Little Rock (Pulaski County), Jonesboro (Craighead County) and West Memphis (Crittenden County).
In the picture: Thirty day rainfall through 600 am CST on 12/11/2011.

 

Hurricane Isaac brought much needed rain to drought stricken areas of the south and east in late August, 2012. Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) had 8.39 inches in the forty eight hour period ending at 700 am CDT on September 1st.

Hurricane Isaac was just off the coast of Louisiana at 425 pm CDT on 08/28/2012.
In the picture: Hurricane Isaac was just off the coast of Louisiana at 425 pm CDT on 08/28/2012.

 

In September, 2013, areas from Little Rock (Pulaski County) southward got two to four inches of rain, with locally over six inches on the 19th/20th. Some of these amounts exceeded what would normally be expected during the entire month. This busted a short term extreme (D3) drought that peaked just a few days prior to the rain.

The southern half of Arkansas dealt with a moderate to extreme drought (D2 to D4) in October, 2015. Very dry air and heat in the middle of the month made conditions worse. On the 15th, Little Rock experienced the hottest October day on record when the thermometer showed 98 degrees. Fast forward to the wettest November in recorded state history, and the drought was erased.

 

Precipitation Trends

 

Streamflow and Soil Moisture
 
Most recent streamflow (values in the 25th to 75th percentile are normal)
Most recent soil moisture (values between 30 and 70 percent are normal)

 

Fire Danger

 

The Forecast