Dry conditions plague 64% of country

2:55 PM, Jul 20, 2012   |    comments
Ohio Drought Monitor for 7/19/12
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A whopping 63.5% of the USA is now in a drought, the nation's highest percentage since the 1950s, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor out Thursday.

"Unrelenting heat and lack of rain continued the downward spiral of drought conditions" in the Great Plains and Midwest this week, climate scientist Richard Heim of the National Climatic Data Center reported in the Drought Monitor. Rainfall has been below average this year from California to New England, with the Midwest Corn Belt among the hardest-hit areas, the climate center reports.

For example, Indianapolis has received only 15.55 inches of rain so far this year, almost 9 inches below the city's typical 24.49 inches to date. With many trees dropping their leaves and going dormant months early, Indianapolis has implemented mandatory water restrictions for the first time ever, Heim said. In Paducah, Ky., only a foot of rain has fallen so far this year, more than 15 inches below the city's average. Memphis has recorded just 15.54 inches, almost 15 inches below average.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this week said that 38% of the nation's corn crop was in poor to very poor condition, compared to 30% a week ago. Additionally, 54% of the nation's pastures and rangelands were in poor to very poor condition, the USDA reported, the highest since at least 1995.

Mark Svoboda, climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center, said it's probably too late to mitigate the farm losses from the 2012 drought. "The crops are in the ground; we're living rain to rain," Svoboda told The Weather Channel on Thursday. "We knew we had a dry late part of winter. We had a warm spring. Our soil moistures are depleted."

In the southwestern and central swath of the Corn Belt, the combination of too much heat and too little rain into the middle of August will prove to be too much for corn to take, AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said. Just more than two years ago, only about 8% of the nation was in a drought, which was the lowest since at least 1999, according to the Drought Monitor.

By Doyle Rice, USA TODAY


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