Worst drought in 5 decades expands in U.S.

Source: E&E • Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2012

At least moderate levels of drought affect 64 percent of the contiguous United States, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which compiles data from federal and academic scientists.

“This is the greatest extent of drought we’ve seen all summer,” said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. “The drought is easing in the East, but we’re seeing more of it expand in the central Plains, Rockies and Dakotas.”

The worst level of drought, “exceptional,” increased to cover 6.23 percent of the contiguous United States for the week that ended Sept. 11, according to the Drought Monitor. That’s up from 6.14 percent the week before.

Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Iowa were hit particularly hard. For example, more than 88 percent of land in Kansas is experiencing “extreme drought.”

High temperatures and lack of rain — below 50 percent of normal throughout much of the northern Plains — are taking their toll on soybean crops, with yields estimated to be the lowest in nine years. Corn, too, will suffer. The Agriculture Department estimates corn yields will be the lowest the United States has seen in six years (Carey Gillam, Reuters, Sept. 13). — MBI