Drought clings to the Plains

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The drought continues to hang on in the nation's midsection as wetter storm systems stick to the coasts.

Nearly two-thirds of the country – primarily in the Corn Belt – is in moderate or worse drought, according to the latest Drought Monitor released on Thursday. This is 2 percentage points above last week’s report.

Many of the same states continue to dominate the extreme end of the drought spectrum, continuing a trend that has dominated the Plains since early September. In particular, drought in Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Oklahoma refuses to budge.



Kansas: Just a trace of rain fell last week in the Sunflower State, confined to areas around the Missouri border. The past 30 days in general have been especially dry for western Kansas, where less than one-tenth of an inch of rain.  Much of the state needs between 6 and 12 inches of rain to quench the drought, so it’s no surprise that 78 percent of Kansas is in extreme to exceptional drought. Dry conditions are forecast for the next 5 to 7 days, so the drought will likely worsen in next week’s report.  



Nebraska: One year ago, 65 percent of the state reported no drought. As the dry 2012 progresses, that percentage has now moved to 0 percent. Ninety-six percent of Nebraska is currently in extreme or worse drought, with 77 percent reporting exceptional drought conditions. Very few areas in the state have seen rain in the past week, with less than a trace amount reported for the majority of Nebraska. The dry weather has dominated during the month of November, with very few areas reporting more than one-half inch of rain in the last 30 days. Like Kansas, the next 5 to 7 days will be more of the same: dry. Some areas of eastern Nebraska need to up 12 inches of rain to make up for the moisture deficit.



South Dakota: The news isn’t good for South Dakota as the drought jumped by more than 8 percentage points this week. Sixty-three percent of the state is in extreme or worse drought, compared to 55 percent last week. Just three months ago, 26 percent was reported at these levels. Like other states in the region, a dry November produced little relief, and between 3 and 12 inches of rain is needed to end the drought. Monday may bring the best chance of rain to the state, but the probability at this time is still minimal.



Oklahoma: In the past few weeks, Oklahoma has slowly made its way back into the top drought-plagued states in the U.S. This week is no exception. Ninety-one percent is now in extreme or exceptional drought, compared to 72 percent last week. November has also been dry for the Sooner state, with less than an inch of rain reported for most of the state – primarily in the western half – in the last 30 days.



See how your state is doing here. 

However, the drought has also slowly crept into other states and regions as a dry November slides in what could be a dry December. The drought has also now grown areas of Minnesota, Iowa, Texas, Georgia, Alabama, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona and Wyoming.

The latest U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook is the bearer of bad news for many areas. Through the end of February, it expects the drought to develop or persist in most states west of the Mississippi. Few portions of the central Corn Belt may see any improvement. Alabama and Georgia are the only states in the East where drought is expected to continue.

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