Drought spreads, expected to persist through February

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Sixty-two percent of the continental United States is currently in moderate or worse drought according to the latest Drought Monitor report, marking the sixth consecutive month with at least 50 percent of the Lower 48 affected by the drought.

The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook doesn’t anticipate that the drought will go away any time soon and expects drought to persist in many areas west of the Mississippi River through the end of February.

The worst of the drought remains centered in Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas and Oklahoma. Though the highest levels of drought didn’t increase in these states this week, it also did not improve:




Nebraska:  Seventy-seven percent of the state is in exceptional drought, unchanged from last week. According to a report from The Chadron (Neb.) Record, the drought cost Nebraska’s corn crop $240 million.




Kansas: It’s more of the same for the Sunflower State. More than 77 percent of the state is in extreme or worse drought, marking minimal change from last week’s report. Western Kansas is most affected by the drought. All counties in the state remain under an Emergency Drought Stage.




South Dakota: Nothing changed for the state this week, with 63 percent still in extreme to exceptional drought. South Dakota saw more rain last week than other Plains states, though rainfall totals were less than a trace of an inch. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported in October that the state’s dryness “lowered the 2012 PDSI to the most severe level since the 1930s, but this bucked a trend toward wet conditions for the last couple decades.”




Oklahoma: Ninety-one percent of the Sooner State is in extreme or worse drought.  The late resurgence of drought in the state will likely only add to the losses already attributed to the drought. Researchers at Oklahoma State University have estimated that drought losses in Oklahoma have already topped more than $400 million this year.



See how your state is doing here.

Unfortunately, meteorologists aren’t hopeful for any wet systems for the Plains.

"We have not seen hardly any rain or snow around the Plains states. It is still very dry. And with these temperatures when you are having 60- or 70 degrees and high winds... it's going to be problematic," Brian Fuchs, climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln said in an interview with Reuters.

For other states, Texas is seeing drought return again, and 59 percent of the Lone Star State is in severe or worse drought. Arkansas saw relief from the remnants of Hurricane Isaac in early September, but dryness again is creeping back into the state. Other states reporting growing percentages of drought include Georgia, Alabama, Minnesota, Iowa, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada.  

Iowa State climate expert Elwynn Taylor told Reuters Ag Forum an on-line chatroom, that he believes that moisture will be a wildcard throughout the remainder of this year and into 2013.

"At present the trend is toward a La Niña pattern, but neutral, trending toward La Niña," Taylor said. "On average during a La Niña year, there is a 70 percent chance of below-trend yield for the Corn Belt. For 2013, the chances are somewhat higher because of the existing subsoil dryness."

Taylor also noted that it will take 16 inches of precipitation between October and May to fully recharge the soil moisture in many areas in the western Corn Belt. Read, “Iowa State climate expert sees lower corn yields 2013.”

If conditions don't improve, some experts believe that more than 25 percent of the country's winter wheat could be abandoned. Read more here.

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Iowa  |  December, 07, 2012 at 10:07 AM

I'm not sure if you know what the shape of Nebraska and Kansas look like, but you have those maps mixed up with the descriptions.

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