Drought worsens; 87 percent of corn crop affected

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Drought Monitor - August 16, 2012 Drought has dominated the news for nearly three months, and the trend won’t be ending any time soon. The weekly Drought Monitor shows few notable improvements and some serious degradation as more than 60 percent of the nation copes with drought conditions.

As of last week, 87 percent of the corn crop is impacted by the drought, with more than half in extreme to exceptional drought.

“The primary corn and soybean agriculture belt has been especially hard-hit by drought the last four months,” the Palmer index reported. “By the end of July 2012, about 86 percent of the primary corn and soybean belt was experiencing moderate to extreme drought, surpassing all previous droughts except those in 1988 and the 1930s.”

Even with the lower temperatures and scattered light rain showers for the some areas, exceptional drought double this week in the High Plains, jumped from 8 to 16 percent. Exceptional drought in the Midwest jumped to 8 percent from 6 percent last week.

Indiana saw improvement, and though no part of the state could be considered “normal,” areas in extreme to exceptional drought dropped from 69 percent to 46 percent. Kansas and Missouri weren’t as lucky, with both states reporting significant jumps in exceptional drought conditions.

Kansas. in particular. is wrapped with exceptional drought, which now makes up 63 percent of the state. See how your state is doing here.

According to Bloomberg, even with more rain-producing systems and lower temperatures forecast for the region, the majority of the region will be drier than normal through the end of the month.  

Despite the deteriorating conditions, the light at the end of the drought-ridden tunnel is growing steadily brighter. Earlier this week, an El Niño watch was issued, indicating that wetter conditions are likely to develop by the end of September for much of the country. El Niño tends to bring drought-easing rain to the South and Midwest, pushing the drought to the West.

“We hope this signals a shift in the atmospheric moisture patterns,” Mark Svoboda of the National Drought Mitigation Center told Bloomberg. “Typically, El Niño  brings about cooler and wetter winters to the southern tier states, so that could be good news in breaking the two-year drought in the southern plains and Southeast.”

However, the Midwest and central plains are harder to predict. Rainfall for these areas depends on the track of the U.S. jet stream. Even so, AccuWeather.com released their winter forecast earlier this week, which shows much of the central and northern Plains receiving below-normal snowfall totals. However, their long-range forecast as a history of being unreliable.

Last year, the weather group expected Chicago to be one of the “hardest-hit cities” of the winter, with 52 inches of snow predicted. However, according to National Weather Service data, Chicago saw just 21 inches of snowfall instead, far below their average of 28 inches and less than half of AccuWeather.com’s forecast.

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