Drought (finally) loosens grip on the heartland

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click image to zoomRainfallAdvanced Hydrologic Prediction ServiceRainfall totals over the last 14 days
Drought Monitor, droughtDrought MonitorThe latest Drought Monitor map released on June 12, 2014.

There was good news for the Heartland - but bad news for the west - in the latest Drought Monitor report. Currently 26 percent of the Continental United States is in severe or worse drought, down from 27 percent reported last week.

Over the last 14 days, between one and eight inches of rain fell across much the parched Heartland. The biggest changes were seen in the central and southern Plains:

  • Kansas: Over the last five weeks, drought conditions in the Sunflower State have improved tremendously. In early May, more than half of the state was in extreme or worse drought. Now, after several weeks of soaking rains, just 32 percent remains in extreme drought. There is still room to improve, especially in the western half of the state.
  • Oklahoma: Three months ago, 100 percent of Oklahoma was considered in some state of extreme dryness or drought. This week, thanks to the current active weather pattern over the Plains, almost 9 percent of the state is free from any drought. More than half of the Oklahoma is still reporting extreme or worse drought, but this percentage is down considerably from last week’s report of 61 percent.
  • Texas: In May, as the drought in Texas reached its peak thus far into 2014, experts announced it was among the “worst droughts in the past 500 years.” What storms did pass through the state generally bypassed the hardest-hit areas.  Finally, nearly a month later, the storms finally made their way in the Panhandle and central parts of the state. Currently 23 percent of the Lone Star State is in extreme or exceptional drought, down from 27 percent last week and 46 percent during the week of May 6.

A supplemental report to the Drought Monitor, the Ag in Drought report, shows that conditions have been improving across many key corn- and soybean-producing states in the country.

Just 16 percent of corn is growing in areas experiencing drought, marking the lowest percentage reported since 2012. Eleven percent of soybeans are in areas experiencing drought – the lowest percentage since July 2013.

Further to the west, the Drought Monitor report's update was less optimistic. Drought conditions are becoming increasingly dire in California, where 77 percent of the state is in extreme or worse drought.

This percentage has gone unchanged for nearly two months. California leaders are left begging for lawmakers to invest in projects to shore up the state’s water supply.  According to the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, the majority of California has seen less than one inch of rain over the last 60 days.

Now all eyes are on El Niño’s return last this year. Current odds place El Niño at 80 percent, and many are hopeful that El Niño could bring the drought relief California so desperately needs. Read, “Could El Niño Save California From This Year's Drought?”

Click here for the full Drought Monitor report.

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