Extreme Drought Rapidly Expanding
The 2012 drought disaster is rapidly worsening in severity, especially over the nation's agricultural heartland, according to the latest weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report, released Thursday.
While the area covered by the overall drought grew only slightly, the intensity increased alarmingly. Nationally, the percentage of the country in "extreme" to "exceptional" drought – the two worst categories on the scale – jumped from 13.53% to 20.57%. In other words, another 219,000 square miles was added to the area in extreme drought – an area slightly larger than the states of California and New York combined.
The overall percentage of the country in drought grew for the tenth week in a row, inching up from 63.54% to 63.86%.
Bryan Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Nebraska, spoke with Stephanie Abrams on Your Weather Today about the new report.
"Right now the year this matches up best with is 1988," Fuchs said. "That was the last real significant drought that hit the Corn Belt as significantly as this one."
In terms of the rain needed to end the drought, Fuchs said, "Each state is a little bit different as far as the deficits we're seeing. But in some areas the deficits we're seeing are 16 to 18 inches, and we just don't make those up overnight."
All percentage figures refer to the contiguous 48 states:
- The percentage of the country in "severe" drought (level 2) or worse set a new 21st-century high for the second straight week, rising from 42.23% last week to 45.57% this week.
- The percentage of country in "exceptional" drought climbed from 0.99% last week to 2.38% this week – a considerable jump, but still well below the levels in the 2011 Southern Plains drought.
- The percentage of the country in "abnormally dry" conditions or worse actually decreased slightly to 80.08%, compared to 80.75% a week ago.
- Extreme drought (level 3 or worse) expanded dramatically in Illinois, increasing from 8% last week to over 70% of the state this week.
- Likewise, in Nebraska, the percentage of the state in extreme drought exploded from less than 5% last week to over 64% this week.
- Just over one-third of Arkansas is now in exceptional (level 4) drought – the worst category – up from just 11% of the state last week.
Extreme Drought Rapidly Expanding - weather.com