Damaging Drought Creeps toward Midwest

August 4, 2011 08:36 AM

This week’s U.S. Drought Monitor Index has little good news for farmers. Exceptional and extreme levels of drought continue to plaque Texas, Oklahoma and Arizona, while extreme and severe conditions have moved into Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana and Georgia.

(Scroll down to see animated images of where the drought has increased and intensified during the last six weeks.) 

USDA Meteorologist Brad Rippey, reports in his weekly analysis, that despite scattered, locally heavy showers across the Midwest and Southeast, hot weather continued to have a detrimental impact on summer crops. 
"The heat’s effects were amplified in areas largely bypassed by showers, including a broad arc of farmland stretching from southern Iowa into western Ohio," he says. "Meanwhile, an already dire situation continued to worsen across the south-central U.S., where the combination of an historic 10-month drought and a relentless summer heat wave left little hope for rain-fed commodities and placed significant stress on livestock and irrigated crops."

Here’s an overview of the regions:

The Midwest and Northeast
Patchy agricultural dryness continued to develop from the Midwest into the Northeast, with some pockets of drought beginning to appear.  In many areas, persistent heat aggravated the effects of short-term dryness. 
  • Detroit, Mich., set a record for its hottest month (79.3°F; previously, 79.0°F in July 1921 and 1955). 
  • In Indiana, Ft. Wayne not only set a record for its hottest month, but also experienced a record-high number of 90-degree days in July (22; previously, 21 days in 1983).
  • Pastures continued to "burn up," with more than half reported in very poor to poor condition on July 31.
  • Topsoil moisture was rated 85% very short to short in Maryland; end-of-July values in other states included 78% in Pennsylvania, 69% in Missouri, 66% in Delaware, 64% in New York, and 63% in Indiana.
The Southeast
Locally heavy showers kept drought intensification at bay in some areas and resulted in some additional drought relief in the central Gulf Coast region. 
  • New Orleans, La., received daily-record rainfall amounts on July 25 and 28 (2.34 and 3.52 inches, respectively), and ended the month with 13 inches of precipitation (210%of normal). 
  • By July 31, more than half (56%) of South Carolina’s pastures were rated in very poor to poor condition. South Carolina also led the Southeast with topsoil moisture rated 77% very short to short. 
  • Nearly one-third (32%) of the cotton was rated very poor to poor by the end of July in Alabama and Georgia. 
  • Peanuts (30% very poor to poor) were struggling in Alabama.  Nearly one-half (45%) of North Carolina’s corn was rated very poor to poor.
The Central and Southern Plains and The Mid-South
Tropical Storm Don—which made landfall on July 29 between Brownsville and Corpus Christi—was a mighty disappointment for parched Texas. Scattered showers, totaling mostly less than an inch, were limited to Deep South Texas, as the storm literally disintegrated upon moving inland. 
  • A record-shattering string of 100-degree readings continued into August across parts of the Lone Star State. Tyler, TX, posted a 36-day streak (and counting) of triple-digit heat from June 28 – August 2, nearly doubling its former mark of 20 days set from July 15 – August 3, 1998. 
  • With an average temperature of 89.2°F, July 2011 was the hottest month on record in Oklahoma City, Okla., smashing its Dust Bowl-era record of 88.7°F set in August 1936. 
  • For the second consecutive month, Lubbock, TX, experienced its hottest month on record.
  • The coverage of Texas rangeland and pastures in very poor to poor conditions stood at 93% on July 31, according to USDA. 
  • The rangeland and pasture situation was nearly as bad in Oklahoma (86% very poor to poor), Arkansas (79%), and Kansas (57%). 
  • Oklahoma’s row crops were in particularly bad shape, with USDA rating 88% of the cotton and 74% of the sorghum in very poor to poor condition. 
The Southwest
An active monsoon circulation continued to generate scattered showers and thunderstorms across the Four Corners States. 
  • July ended wetter than normal at many Southwestern locations, including Douglas, Arizona (3.57 inches, or 114% of normal), and Grand Junction, Colorado (1.71 inches, or 259%). 
  • Recovery in drought-affected areas was slow, with rangeland and pastures struggling to rebound. 
  • At the end of July, USDA rated 88% of New Mexico’s rangeland and pastures in very poor to poor condition, along with 64% in Arizona.  


Rippey reports that during the next 5 days (from August 4-8), excessively hot conditions will persist across the south-central and southeastern U.S., while cooler air will overspread the Midwest. However, most other areas—including the northern and central Plains, Midwest, and East—can expect 1 to 2 inches of rain, with locally higher amounts. 

Drought Conditions Expand 

Just how bad is the drought getting? Watch these photos to see where the drought has increased and intensified during the last six weeks. 

Drought Monitor   6 Weeks


For more weather-related news and the latest forecasts, visit AgWeb’s Weather section.


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