Area in extreme drought increases by size of Texas, report says
The map, released Thursday, shows the intensity levels of the drought in all parts of the country.
July 26th, 2012
05:13 PM ET

Area in extreme drought increases by size of Texas, report says

The portion of the country with some level of drought increased only slightly in the last week, but areas at risk for major crop losses and widespread water shortages jumped significantly, according to a report from the National Drought Mitigation Center.

Areas of the contiguous United States under extreme or exceptional drought conditions increased by an area roughly the size of Texas - from 13.5% of the land to 20.5% - in the past seven days, according to the Drought Monitor report released Thursday.

"It's getting to the point where some of the (agricultural) damage is not reversible" in the extreme-drought areas, said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the center. "The damage is done, and even with rain, you're not going to reverse some of these problems, at least not this growing season."

The areas newly put into the extreme category are spread over many states, including parts of Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and South Dakota. (See last week's map, for comparison with the one above.)

Meanwhile, the portion of the Lower 48 states under moderate or worse drought conditions rose slightly in the last week - from 63.54% to 63.86% - putting the contiguous United States in the largest drought by area in the report's 12-year history. This is the fourth consecutive week the Lower 48 set a Drought Monitor record in this category.

A week of very hot and very dry conditions - coming after roughly two months of similar weather - pushed more areas into the extreme or exceptional categories, Fuchs said.

Areas in the "extreme" drought category - the third most severe of four classifications - could see major crop and pasture losses with widespread water shortages, according to the center.

The lower two drought classifications are called moderate (some damage to crops and pastures possible, with some water shortages developing or imminent) and severe (crop or pasture losses likely, with water shortages common).

The highest classification, exceptional, means the area is at risk for widespread crop and pasture losses, with water emergencies.

Unrelenting heat and little to no rainfall across the nation’s heartland are making conditions difficult to overcome. Every state in the country, plus Puerto Rico, has at least a small area shown as abnormally dry or worse, Fuchs said.

Many of the areas that saw the drought intensify in the past week make up the country's corn and soybean belt - disheartening news for those that have already been tremendously affected.

Almost 90% of U.S. corn is grown in an area experiencing drought, and even recent and forecast rainfall will be too late to significantly help this year’s crop. Agriculture Department Secretary Tom Vilsack this week designated 76 additional counties in six states as drought disaster areas, bringing the total for the 2012 crop year to 1,369 counties across 31 states.

He also announced Monday that his department will cut the interest rates on emergency loans for farmers hard-hit by the drought to 2.25% from 3.75%.

On Thursday, Iowa's governor declared a disaster emergency to help farmers deal with the drought.

"The assistance comes in the form of a suspension of state laws and regulations affecting the transport of hay, straw and stover," a release from Gov. Terry Branstad said. "The drought has destroyed or depleted sources of these products that are necessary for livestock production and feed."

It’s not just crops that are suffering from the heat and lack of rainfall. A July 22 report from the Department of Agriculture said that 55% of the country’s pasture and range land was in poor to very poor condition. This is the highest percentage ever noted and is likely to profoundly hurt the nation’s cattle and dairy farmers.

Reports like this could continue, because U.S. forecasts don't offer any reprieve over the next several weeks. A persistent ridge of high pressure over portions of the country has sent the mercury to record levels over recent weeks and months. St. Louis has now seen a record 11 days with high temperatures reaching or exceeding 105 degrees this year, breaking the previous record of 10 days set in 1934, another year of historic heat and drought across the U.S.

Heat records like this will likely continue to fall. Above-normal temperatures are expected to continue through the beginning of August for much of the country, including the Great Plains.

The Drought Monitor map is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and about 350 drought observers across the country.

More on the drought:

Feds offer help to drought-stricken farmers
Farmer in the drought – if you plant it, it might not come
Farmer: 'If you eat, this drought will affect you'
Praying for rain in the Arkansas drought
From the field – tweets from #drought12
How the drought could hit your wallet
Opinion: Why the drought affects me - and you
Hogs feel drought's pinch
Drought forces farmers to sell cattle 


soundoff (234 Responses)
  1. Philip (gobo warm warm is you)

    Thanks to the GRADUAL rise of average temperatures, portions of N. America can be seen with the naked eye for the first time by modern man. Giant forrests of green trees frozen in time have been uncovered by the SLOWLY melting ice.
    See? Our climate is GRADUALLY changeing. It's our WEATHER that is violent, NOT our climate.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. mark

    Come on let the sun shin bigger and brighter . Long live the sun

    July 26, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Gold Dragon©™

    Good evening everyone and hope all are well.

    Mother nature does what she wants and we have to adjust to her ways. So now the cost of food and meat will be increased due to the drought. But the hard working americans have not seen a decent wage increase or cost of living increase in decades. It is so hard to make ends meet in today's economy and now it will be harder for alot of people, especially those on a fix/limited income.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      I thank you for your post.


      July 26, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Superman

    Wow phillip for once you make sense but i still cant stand looking at what you input here so now be a good boy and go to bed

    July 26, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Superman

    No mary i will not be quiet why dont you go back and preach your fire and brimstone that was a little nicer than this

    July 26, 2012 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Superman

    Sorry phillip for once we have a good president obama is not bush just like mary is not your clone ok obama has had a hard aJs job cleaning up bushs mess and he is doing a good job as a matter of fact the first time i voted it was for obama and he has done a good job if you think you can do it better than you wouldnt be on here instead you would work to find a solution

    July 26, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Philip

    @Superman. Yeah? (Obama not same as Bush?) Explain why President Obama refuses to lift Bush's gag-order placed on the FBI and the FBI report that NAMES the men who financed 9/11. (yes. The FBI are very inteligent. They tracked the money trail just as they've done for decades)
    Why doesn't President Obama allow the woman who wrote this report to speak freely if he's so "not Bush"?
    @President Obama and his partisan microbloggers, LIFT Bus;'s gag order off of Sibel D. Edmonds. Allow her to read her FBI report in front of Congress in open session, LIVE on C-Span. (hardly anyone will be watching. Recall the Clintons being fully exposed on C-Span coverage of the Whitewater land scam. OJ Simpson was on the other channels. Everyone knows about OJ. EVERYONE.
    See, Mr. President Obama?

    July 26, 2012 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Obama Mama

    @Philip- Quit hatin' on my man.

    July 26, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Gold Dragon©™

    I see Phillip hasn't changed.

    July 27, 2012 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Obama Mama

      lol. You're not suprised though? lol I can usually tell when it is philip, no matter what name he At least he is consistant.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  10. little mister

    I did not write that at 11:33. Stop stealing my name.

    July 27, 2012 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
  11. Gold Dragon©™

    I didn't post at 12:17am.

    Whoever did can at least copy and paste. Bravo.

    July 27, 2012 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Obama Mama

      @Gold Dragon- I know, I did not think it was you.
      Good night banasy, Gold Dragon, chrissy, little mister, Jeff and philip.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      We know you didn't, GD.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
  12. little mister©

    There troll now try and steal me name.

    July 27, 2012 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
  13. Mark - Atlanta

    IT'S NOT MAN MADE GLOBAL WARMING!!!! Rush Limbaugh said it wasn't on his HUGE radio show!

    July 27, 2012 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
  14. Gold Dragon©™

    Rush as a first name. Good name for a junkie.

    July 27, 2012 at 12:30 am | Report abuse |
    • little mister©

      I like Rush, at least he tells the truth.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
    • @dillusional little mister

      No he does not. And he is for entertainment purposes only. His only whiney claim to fame is to divide our country, he has never stated one solution, or fact. He is a pundit at least, a drug addict, and woman hater.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
  15. Gold Dragon©™

    He does have alot to say.

    July 27, 2012 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
    • little mister©

      Yes Golden Dragon he does. I always listen to his radio show when I drive to work.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
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