Drought Sets New 21st-Century Benchmark

Latest Drought Monitor

The latest weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report, released Thursday morning, shows drought encompassing more of the contiguous U.S. than at any other time since the report’s debut in January 2000.

The analysis, compiled by the National Drought Mitigation Center, shows 55.96% of the 48 states (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) in some stage of drought, breaking the previous high of 54.79% set on August 26, 2003.  Last week’s report showed 51.13% of the country in drought.

The continued abnormally dry and very hot weather over a large part of the country was to blame for the increase, according to the Drought Monitor.  Most of the nation’s drought areas received a half inch of rain or less during the seven-day period ending July 3, according to the report.

One particularly hard-hit state is Colorado, where 100% of the state is now in “severe” level-2 drought or worse, and parts of the state have been upgraded to “extraordinary” level-4 drought, the worst classification on the five-level Drought Monitor scale. Even areas hard hit by the destructive June 29 derecho did not receive enough rain to avoid slipping further into drought.  In Ohio, 66% of the state is now in drought, compared to just 36% last week.  Only 5% of Virginia is in drought, but 91% of the state is now “abnormally dry,” a sharp increase from just 31% last week.

Conditions have deteriorated rapidly across much of the Midwest in recent months with record-shattering heat in March, May, and June, and below-average precipitation.  For example, Illinois and Indiana were not depicted in any stages of dryness in the March 6 report; now, 100% of both states are abnormally dry, and roughly 90% of the two-state area is officially in drought.

While the total extent of drought nationwide is at its highest levels in this century, the amount of “extreme” and “extraordinary” drought (levels 3 and 4) is not particularly high, and remain well below the levels seen a year ago during the intense regional drought in the south-central states.


The Weather Channel has the full article

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