WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Weather Service reported this past Thursday that more of the U.S. is affected by drought this summer than any time since it started keeping records through its Drought Monitor twelve years ago. Prolonged periods of extreme heat have not only set records in the Midwest, but drought conditions are spreading and intensifying.
According to the weekly Drought Monitor, 56 percent of the continental U.S is now affected by drought. That’s up five percentage points from the previous week and higher than the nearest record of 55 percent in 2003.
Though the current dry conditions don’t match the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, David Miskus, a meteorologist at the weather service’s Climate Prediction Center says we are close to the extreme drought of 1988.
While 1988 saw much drier conditions and an earlier start to the drought than this year, said Brad Rippey, a meteorologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2012 has its own interesting qualities. “This year the high temperatures have certainly played into this drought. There’s a lot more evaporation … and crop demands for water.”
The Drought Monitor noted that the drought is beginning to “take a significant toll” on food supplies. “In the primary growing states for corn and soybeans, 22 percent of the crop is in poor or very poor condition, as are 43 percent of the nation’s pastures and rangelands and 24 percent of the sorghum crop.”
“July 4–8, 2012, doesn’t look promising in terms of relief,” added The Monitor. “Modest improvement is forecast for most areas that have endured the recent heat wave, but most locations from the Plains eastward are still expected to be warmer than normal.”
In spite of rain and cooler temperatures forecast for mid-July, the National Weather Service looks for drought conditions to worsen. “Drought is likely to develop, persist or intensify” across much of the Ohio and Tennessee valleys, the Corn Belt region, the Mississippi Valley and much of the Great Plains.
The weather service on Thursday did say there’s a better chance that the El Nino weather system would return by winter. If it’s a typical El Nino, that would mean better than average rainfall for the southern tier of the United States.
“Maybe there’s some hope,” said Rippey, “but that’s way on out in the future. That’s not a short term relief.”
©2012 Off the Grid News