4 Staggering Drought Figures

11:15AM Jul 26, 2012
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See how the drought has magnified during the past 12 weeks.

Drought conditions continue to spread and intensify across the middle of the country, according to the July 24 U.S. Drought Monitor. The map set a record for the fourth straight week for the area in moderate drought or worse in the 12-year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor.

According to this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor:

  • 53.44% of the U.S. and Puerto Rico is in moderate drought or worse, up from 53.17% the week before
  • 38.11% in severe drought or worse, compared with 35.32 a week earlier
  • 17.2% in extreme drought or worse, compared with 11.32% the week before
  • 1.99% in exceptional drought, up from .83% the preceding week


Watch this animation from May 15 to July 24 to see how the drought has rapidly spread across the country:

12 week drought

"We’ve seen tremendous intensification of drought through Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Arkansas, Kansa and Nebraska, and into part of Wyoming and South Dakota in the last week," says Brian Fuchs, a climatologist and U.S. Drought Monitor author. "The amount of D3 developing in the country has increased quite a bit for each of the last several weeks."

Fuchs also noted that as of the July 24 U.S. Drought Monitor, every state in the country had at least a small area shown as abnormally dry or worse. "It’s such a broad footprint," he said.
"This drought is two-pronged," Fuchs said. "Not only the dryness but the heat is playing a big and important role. Even areas that have picked up rain are still suffering because of the heat."

The forecast for most of the drought-affected area is for drought to continue to develop and intensify. "Conditions are likely to persist," Fuchs said. "We’ll see further development and intensification into the fall."

In the Plains and Midwest states, crop losses mounted, ranchers liquidated herds, and trees continued to drop leaves and branches. On July 25, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack designated 76 additional counties in six states as drought disaster areas, bringing the total for the 2012 crop year to 1,369 counties across 31 states. Over two dozen large wildfires were burning by the end of the USDM week – most in the West but several in the Plains.

Forecast models for July 25-30 show a front piercing the upper-level high early in the period, bringing scattered showers and thunderstorms to Great Plains and Midwest core drought area. Rainfall amounts may reach an inch in places, with a few locations receiving possibly 2 or more inches.

The heaviest amounts from the front and low pressure system are expected to be in the Upper Great Lakes and Northeast, where locally 3 inches or more of rain may fall. Parts of the South could see an inch or more of rain as the front makes its way to the Gulf Coast.

For July 31-August 8, dry weather is expected to dominate from the West Coast toNorthern Rockies, and from the Central to Southern Plains. Above-normal precipitation is forecast for the Southwest and from the Upper Mississippi Valley to Ohio Valley, parts of the Southeast, and from the Mid-Atlantic states to coastal Northeast.

Above-normal temperatures are expected for much of the country, especially the Rockies and Plains states, while below-normal temperatures may hug the West Coast. Western Alaska is forecast to be wetter than normal, northern Alaska warmer than normal, and the southern areas cooler than normal.