Is the drought an anomaly or new normal?
Several wet weather systems gave hope to producers across the southern Plains and into the Gulf Coast states. Though these systems improved the nation’s overall drought by a few percentage points, it did little else to ease the magnitude of the intense drought felt by many in the heartland.
Currently, 58.87 percent of the contiguous United States is in moderate or worse drought, according to the latest Drought Monitor released on Thursday. This is down slightly from last week’s report of 60.26 percent.
With 77 percent of Nebraska covered in exceptional drought, it continues to be the hardest-hit state in the nation. This week also marks the 20th consecutive week with little change to drought conditions in the state. The last time Nebraska reported a lower percentage was in August, when just 23 percent was experiencing exceptional drought.
Other states – Kansas (35 percent), South Dakota (31 percent), and Oklahoma (39 percent) – also reported high percentages of exceptional drought. The drought has also now slowly drifted to the west, including Colorado and Wyoming, where at least 50 percent of each state is in extreme or worse drought.
Though some areas of Texas, primarily those along the Louisiana border, recorded up to an inch of rain over the last week, little improvement was made in the Lone Star State’s drought. More than half of Texas is in moderate or worse drought, with pockets of extreme and exceptional drought popping up and expanding all across the state.
In an interview with Reuters, experts suggest that it could become a near-term problem for agricultural states in the region and a possible long-term challenge of millions of Americans.
"Everyone is wondering whether this dry weather is the new norm ... or an anomaly that will soon pass," said Barney Austin, director of hydraulic services for INTERA Inc, an Austin, Texas-based geoscience and engineering consulting firm, told Reuters. "We all hope for the latter, but it's hard to tell."
How long the drought will persist is uncertain, though many expect it to last well into 2013.
“The drought will persist through May with warm temperatures and below-normal rain in the western half of the Midwest,” Joel Widenor, the director of agricultural services for Bethesda, Maryland-based Commodity Weather Group LLC, said in an interview with Bloomberg. “About 50 percent of the Midwest will remain in drought condition.”
Other meteorologists, including those who spoke at the Kansas Commodity Classic this week, aren’t as positive. In an article from AgProfessional, Dave Relihan, chief meteorologist for WIBW Radio, said that he doesn’t expect the drought ot ease anytime soon and it shows little signs of weakening. Relihan believes that July and August will once again be stressful for fall crops. Read, “Don’t expect drought to end anytime soon.”