Most Read: Local

Posted at 11:19 AM ET, 07/12/2012

Worst drought in at least 12 years in continental U.S.


The portion of the U.S. at least abnormally dry has risen from 55 to 80 percent over the last 8 weeks. The portion officially designated as a drought increased from 34 percent to 61 percent. (U.S. Drought Monitor, adapted by Jason Samenow)
Drought conditions now cover about 61 percent of the Lower 48, the most extensive area in 12 years of records. Another 19 percent of the country is on the brink of drought. 80 percent of the country is classified as at least abnormally dry in the latest U.S. Drought Monitor.

This time last week, the Drought Monitor indicated drought in 56 percent of the U.S.; that number rose 5 percentage point since. U.S. drought coverage has worsened for eight consecutive weeks, climbing from 34 percent on May 15 to 61 percent as of July 10.

Drought now covers the entirety of 12 states: Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Missouri.

Both Colorado and Arkansas have the country’s worst drought conditions. About 70 percent of these states are suffering extreme to exceptional drought.

The dry weather has stoked wildfires in Colorado and nearby states.

“During the past 3 weeks, the year-to-date acreage burned by wildfires increased from 1.1 million to 3.1 million,” the Drought Monitor said.

In addition, the drought is having devastating impacts on agriculture in the heartland.

“In the 18 primary corn-growing states, 30 percent of the crop is now in poor or very poor condition, up from 22 percent the previous week,” reported the Drought Monitor. “In addition, fully half of the nation’s pastures and ranges are in poor or very poor condition, up from 28 percent in mid-June.”

Related: Drought scorches much of US corn crop, but plant technology could still provide huge harvest

Business Week reports Goldman Sachs has increased grain-price forecasts in response to the compromised growing conditions, and that corn prices have spiked 41 percent since June 15 in Chicago.


Latest U.S. Drought Monitor as of July 10, 2012 (U.S. Drought Monitor)
Chicago is having its 8th driest summer since 1871, with rain just 26 percent of normal - 1.18” has fallen since June 1. (Source: Chicago Weather Center)

But the situation is worse as you head south and west where much of the corn is grown. In small pockets of southern Illinois and Indiana, exceptional drought has emerged for the first time in 12 years of records.

Related: Spurred by Record Heat, Drought Stretches Across U.S. (Climate Central)

And not just agriculture is being affected. In Indianapolis, Mayor Greg Ballard declared a water shortage warning Wednesday, banning lawn watering the Associated Press reports.

Welcome rains may move into a portion of this parched region. In its outlook for the next 5 days, the Drought Monitor forecasts:

Moderate to heavy rain could be on tap for at least part of the areas covered by dryness and drought during July 11-16, 2012. More than an inch is forecast across a large swath from southern and eastern Texas eastward across the Gulf Coast and Florida, and northeastward through the lower Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee Valleys, the central and southern Appalachians, and much of the south Atlantic states north of central Georgia.

Conditions in Northern Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

The Drought Monitor indicates moderate drought has enveloped much of the D.C. metro area. However, the latest update was only through Tuesday morning so it did not capture the heavy rains that affected part of this area Tuesday night. At least for D.C. proper, the rain was probably sufficient to knock the classification down from moderate drought to abnormally dry. But in southern Maryland and near the Chesapeake Bay which got little or no rain Tuesday (and have larger rainfall deficits), drought conditions - no doubt - persist.

Map of Maryland drought conditions

Map of Virginia drought conditions

By  |  11:19 AM ET, 07/12/2012

Categories:  Latest, U.S. Weather

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company