U.S. Drought Extent Increases as Fall Begins

The U.S. Drought Monitor reports that drought conditions increased yet again last week, with moderate to exceptional drought now covering 65.45 percent of the contiguous United States, up from 64.82 percent the week prior. For "abnormally dry" conditions not considered actual drought, the lower 48 saw a slight decrease to 76.59 percent down from 78.15 percent. Areas suffering under extreme or exceptional drought tipped up slightly three-quarters of a percentage point to 21.5 percent.

Record drought in contiguous United States

Currently drought extends over the largest are of the contiguous U.S. since the 1950's, according to the Drought Monitor

Drought hits farmers and ranchers hard

The ongoing drought made for a tough summer for farmers. The USDA classifies about 51 percent of the 2012 summer corn crop as in poor or very condition. Last year only 20 percent of the corn crop was classified as poor or very poor. Corn yield projections in May were set at 166 bushels per acre, but came in at only 122 bushels per acre. The soybean harvest is still underway, but lower yields are expected there as well. With 22 percent of the soybean crop in, 34 percent of that is considered in poor or very poor condition.

Ranchers throughout the drought-stricken west and midwest have sold off large portions of their livestock in response to dried-up pastures and lack of water. The drought has also driven up hay prices for ranchers, which has led to a marked increase in the theft of grass. Stealing hay may seem relatively harmless, but combined with pervasive drought it threatens ranchers' livelihoods. "If they don't have enough grass on the ranch, they have to sell their cattle," New Mexico rancher Leon Porter recently told ClimateWire.

Relief in some places, not in others

Some drought relief came with precipitation (and some flooding) in the eastern U.S., Great Lakes region, Texas and the Ohio River Valley, but drought continues to intensify in over the central and northern High Plains states and in the south and central Rockies, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Additional sources:
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Image credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

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