Is another Dust Bowl in the works?

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click image to zoomDrought MonitorThe Drought Monitor map released on May 8, 2014. Thursday’s Drought Monitor had little good news for many states in the western half of the United States. Despite some improvement seen in the northern Corn Belt, much of the nation’s heartland reported worsening drought conditions.

Searing heat exacerbated the already dry conditions in Kansas and the southern Plains. In Kansas, one ag specialist told “NBC Nightly News” this year’s wheat crop is the worst he has seen in his 52 years.

Currently 53 percent of Kansas, 49 percent of Oklahoma, and 46 percent of Texas are in extreme or worse drought. USDA Meteorologist Brad Rippey explained that devastatingly dry, dusty and windy conditions in April have fueled concerns in these areas of a “New Dust Bowl.”

He wrote in a Drought Monitor news update, “The ‘Terrible Teens’ drought, which for many parts of the southern Great Plains began in the fall of 2010 and has lasted for more than 3½ years, continues to take a severe toll on rangeland, pastures, and winter wheat. “

In Texas, drought has forced Wichita Falls officials to turn to toilets for tap water on fears the city will run out of water within two years.

Further to the west, farmers and residents in California are also facing severe water woes of their own. Currently more than 76 percent of California is in extreme or exceptional drought.

With reservoirs running dangerous low, a new plan considered by state officials takes an “audacious” approach to bringing water to help thirsty farm. The plan uses pumps to reverse the flow of the California Aqueduct to send water uphill. Read more here.

Click here to read the full Drought Monitor map.

Looking ahead, the Climate Prediction Center’s Monthly Drought Outlook shows the drought persisting or intensifying drought stretching from Kansas to the California coast. With El Nino likely to develop sometime during the second-half of the year, long-term drought relief is still months away.

“Where the drought is so bad, temperatures are going to be hot because the atmosphere to going to continue to bake. We expect the drought to build even more so into the Plains as we go through the summer months,” Cantore explained to “NBC Nightly News” in a report here.


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