Drought Deepens in Latest Update

A look at the U.S. Drought Monitor offers little good news for the Corn Belt.

Published on: Jul 5, 2012

In the latest Drought Monitor report issued this week there's evidence of an expansion and intensification of dryness in large sections of the country, with only southern Texas reporting some improvement. Here's a breakdown of the report from droughtmonitor.unl.edu.

The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic: Despite a couple of thunderstorm complexes that brought light to locally moderate rain to parts of the region, the late-period hot weather across the mid-Atlantic and a return to dry weather over the last couple of weeks allowed D0 conditions to expand through much of this region, with a few patches of moderate drought showing up. Farther north, there was some limited expansion of D0 and, in western Pennsylvania, D1 conditions.

TOUGH ON CORN: First dry, now hot weather is wreaking havoc on the corn crop.
TOUGH ON CORN: First dry, now hot weather is wreaking havoc on the corn crop.

The Tennessee Valley, Southeast, Deep South, and lower Ohio Valley: Brutal heat and only light to locally moderate rain engendered a broad expansion and intensification of dryness and drought. Most of this region recorded less than half of normal precipitation during the last 30 days, with under 25 percent of normal falling on the lower Ohio Valley, much of Kentucky and northern Tennessee. Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee each have 45 to 50 percent of their corn crop in poor or very poor condition as well as 34 to 49 percent of soybeans.

Drought Deepens in Latest Update
DEEPENING DROUGHT - The two maps above - from this week and last show the spread of dry weather across the heart of the Corn Belt. Longer-term forecasts offer little hope for improvement soon.

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The Mississippi Valley Westward to the Pacific Coast:

Another hot and dry week led to rapid deterioration and expansion of dryness and drought from the Rockies eastward. The only exception was southern Texas, where many locations recorded 1 to 3 inches of rain, leading to areas of improvement in the widespread D1 to D3 conditions. Farther north, D0 to D3 conditions expanded, with exceptional dryness (D4) developing in parts of north-central and east-central Colorado. In New Mexico, 59 percent of the Sorghum crop is in poor or very poor condition, and much of the region's rangeland is in similarly bad shape, including 74 percent of rangeland in Arizona, 77 percent in Colorado, and 89 percent in New Mexico. In addition, the now-infamous Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado, though partially contained, has been called the most destructive wildfire in the state's history by local officials. Farther north, the Nation's largest wildfire rages in Montana's Custer National Forest, having consumed approximately 186,000 acres as of this writing. Dryness and heat were less exceptional from the Intermountain West westward to the Pacific Coast. No changes in dryness or drought were introduced there.

Hawaii and Alaska: Between 1 and 3 inches of rain fell on east-central Alaska while little or none fell on the state's northern tier. This engendered some slight improvement in southeastern sections of the D0 region, but it seems insufficient to have completely eliminated that region's dryness. In the dry areas across Hawaii, many locations reported 1 to locally over 3 inches of rain in southwestern sections of the Big Island, east-central Maui, and some of central and southeastern Oahu. Other D0 to D3 areas reported only light precipitation, if any. The continuing dryness in the southeastern half of Kauai, where cattle ranchers are reporting that drought stress has started, was degraded to moderate drought (D1), and the rest of the state was unchanged.

Looking Ahead: In general, July 4 - 8, 2012 doesn't look promising in terms of relief, though the intense heat should subside somewhat. One area that could see relief would be from the central and southern Rockies into the northern Plains, much of which is forecast to receive over an inch of rain. Totals near or above 2 inches are expected in the central Dakotas. One to perhaps 3 inches are also anticipated along and near the central Gulf Coast. Elsewhere, light rain at best is expected, with little or none forecast for the lower Northeast, the mid-Atlantic region, the upper Southeast, the Ohio Valley, much of the Mississippi Valley, and the central and southern Plains. Seasonably dry weather is expected in the West. 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. Temperatures could average over 6 degrees above normal from the mid-Atlantic region westward through the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys to near the Mississippi River.

The ensuing 5 days (July 9 - 13, 2012) bring enhanced chances for below-normal rainfall from the Tennessee and middle Mississippi Valleys northward through the Appalachians, Great Lakes, and northern Great Plains. In contrast, the odds favor above-normal rainfall along and near the southern half of the Atlantic Coast and in the southern halves of the High Plains and Rockies. Below-normal temperatures are expected to settle into the Northeast, but continued above-normal temperatures are anticipated in the southern halves of the Mississippi Valley and eastern Plains, and from the northern Plains, the central Rockies, and the desert Southwest westward to near the Pacific Coast.

The Drought Monitor is updated weekly. For more information, including animations and other analysis, visit the website.