According to the National Drought Monitor, 81% of the contiguous U.S. is covered by some form of drought, which compares to 36% last year at this time and 49% at the start of the year. The monitor says rain hasn't been able to keep up with above-normal temps across the nation, with hot and dry weather dominating regions from the Central Plains to the Ohio Valley, Great Lakes and Northeast.
The monitor states: "Another week of hot and dry weather continued the deterioration of crop conditions in America’s breadbasket. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports for the week ending July 15 indicated that 38 percent of the nation’s corn crop was in poor to very poor condition, compared to 30 percent a week ago, and 30 percent of soybeans were in poor to very poor condition (compared to 27 percent last week). Fifty-four percent of the nation’s pasture and rangeland was in poor to very poor condition, which is a jump of 4 percent compared to last week and is an all-time high for the 1995-2012 growing season weekly history. About two dozen large wildfires, mostly in the West, were burning on July 17, about half the number compared to a week ago. Streamflows were in the lower tenth percentile of record, or at record low values at several time scales, across much of the Midwest and parts of the central Plains, West, Southeast, and even parts of New England. As a result, the impacts boundaries were shifted to reflect short-term and long-term drought conditions from the west coast to Ohio Valley and Southeast, with short-term conditions indicated in the northern tier states and from eastern Tennessee to New England. Long-term impacts were indicated for parts of the Southwest and central Gulf of Mexico states."
According to the monitor, 86% of the Midwest is covered by some form of drought, which is two percentage points higher than last week. Most alarming is that 54% of Indiana is how covered by "extreme" drought, which is up from 30% last week.
In the High Plains, which includes the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming, 96.5% is covered by drought, with "extreme" drought favoring the southern area of the region.
Some hope for rains in Ohio Valley
In its outlook, the monitor states, "Beneficial rains could continue from the Gulf of Mexico coast to Mid-Atlantic States during July 18-23, with amounts in excess of two inches in places. Some of these rains could spread into the eastern sections of the Tennessee and Ohio valleys. Monsoon showers are expected in the Southwest and showers and thunderstorms may develop with fronts moving across the northern tier states, although rainfall amounts should generally be less than an inch in these areas. The southern to central Plains will likely be devoid of precipitation. Temperatures for much of the country east of the Rockies will be above normal, with departures possibly 10 to 15 degrees above normal from the central Plains to Great Lakes."
For July 24-August 1, the monitor states dry weather is expected to dominate in the southern to central Plains, across the Gulf coast, and along the west coast, while monsoon showers should bring above normal precipitation to the Southwest. Above-normal temperatures should maintain their hold across the interior U.S. from the Plains to Southeast, with cooler-than-normal conditions along the west coast. Alaska is forecast to be wet with above-normal temperatures in the northeast and cooler-than-normal conditions in the west and south.