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. Gold Dragon©™

    I just wonder if he is sober or high when he does his show.

    July 27, 2012 at 12:44 am | Report abuse |
  2. Gold Dragon©™

    Good night Obama Mama and banasy and whoever else is leaving for the night.

    July 27, 2012 at 12:47 am | Report abuse |
  3. Kenny Rogers

    Now I have a troll at 12:42. I would never write such a stupid thing. Little Mister, I have a full collection of Rush ties that I wear to work. I will give you want of them. We GOPers have to stick together on here.

    July 27, 2012 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
  4. organically

    In spite of the endless proof of human induced climate change, some of the population is still in denial. There are two reasons for this (1) the occasional negative news story on the science of climate change, and (2) Rightist conservatives radicals and tea partiers either are deniers or simply do not care. There are deniers in every scientific fact. Climate change deniers threaten humanity. Reversing climate change is impossible at this point due to the international thirst for fossil fuels and our overall society living standard. This is not going to change. So, rather than talking about stopping climate change, let’s ignore the utopian deniers and begin a dialogue on how to adapt and stop dwelling on things like Solyndra and the keystone pipeline.

    July 27, 2012 at 12:55 am | Report abuse |
  5. Lydia

    Changing lifestyle is too hard for the squeamish GOP that are too afraid of change and will not make money from it.

    July 27, 2012 at 1:00 am | Report abuse |
  6. Gold Dragon©™

    Mother nature is going to do whatever she wants and we can't predict what is going to be. We must adapt. I'm thinking about trying hydroponics and growing food in my basement to stock in my freezer so that I can budget my yearly food costs. I am on a fixed income and I need to adjust my life accordingly.

    July 27, 2012 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Whatever

      I'm thinking mandated Birth Control, say Norplant after 2 kids, at least STOP EXPORTING THE BULK OF US GROWN FOOD, on US tax payers dime, no less, as 'aid', to UNsustainable birthrate countries who, duh, suffer 'food insecurities'.

      I understand Monsanto, Dow, and Big Oil (shipping) enjoy the 100s of Billions from US tax payers (a redistribution of wealth, both actual and resource, if there ever was one), but OUR Farm Belt is crisis depleted and OUR Gulf is Dead Zone Dying form the chemical run off to stretch production "meeting the world's food demands", and Our prices spike due to this increase in demand.
      Third World Overbreeding is actually a Free Will Choice. They must Take Responsibility for THEIR CHOICE, if the pope, allah, they themselves think NINE kids in resource depletion and poverty zone is A OK, THEN the pope, allah or they, themselves have to feed them too.

      July 27, 2012 at 4:28 am | Report abuse |
  7. Tod

    Have you seen his plastic surgery? You have to ask? He didn't go to the same one as your, BABY!

    July 27, 2012 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  8. Ben

    Can you say dust bowl? It happened in the last depression and here it comes again, only bigger and worse. America and the world is not ready for food shortage I know that, this will cause allot of havoc.

    July 27, 2012 at 2:10 am | Report abuse |

    Dust bowl never ended. we put enough dust in air from around natural gas, coal and ore mines and construction sites that the dust clouds can be seen from space. and tilling fields raises tons as well. if not for irrigation our soil loss would be far greater today than 30's.
    wanna stretch food budgets and eat nutricious food, tens of thousand sites show you how.
    You can grow over $1500 in garden box. buckets and in no more than a. series of boxes over $2000 .
    Hydrophonic veggies lack nutrition of garden grown.
    Beans, easy to sprout and need little water, and you get full nutrition compared to cooked.
    Common sense can lead to uncommon cents saved.

    July 27, 2012 at 5:31 am | Report abuse |
  10. BigHwasdemo

    This is what happens when you hire a non-christian devil for president

    July 27, 2012 at 5:47 am | Report abuse |
    • wes

      I Fail to see how someones "FAITH" is responsible for this?

      July 27, 2012 at 6:39 am | Report abuse |
  11. wes

    well I dont know what it takes to get through to some of you people. Global Warming Does Exist!!! its been happening since atleast the early 80's. now I dont know what proof you non belivers need. but between this year and last year doesnt that say we have a BIG Problem? Or do some of you still belive this is normal?

    July 27, 2012 at 5:54 am | Report abuse |
    • scott bleyle

      We are at a time between ice ages,historical fact.Don't throw away your sweater just yet.

      July 27, 2012 at 7:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Tom Sawyer

      And three years ago we had the coolest summer on record in Ohio. Yep. Global warming alright.

      July 27, 2012 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
    • cedar rapids

      "And three years ago we had the coolest summer on record in Ohio. Yep. Global warming alright."

      so let me get this right......coolest summer in OHIO, means GLOBAL warming is false?
      not the sharpest tool in the box are you?

      July 27, 2012 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
    • wes

      yes it seems ohio is the entire world. never mind about the polar ice caps melting, oceans rising, holes in the ozone, rising CO2 levels, record setting temps elsewhere, and record drought elsewhere. the fact you claim ohio had a cool summer when elsewhere it was a record hot summer does not make your statement stick about global warming being false. seems someone should try reading once in a while.

      July 27, 2012 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
  12. scott bleyle

    when times get real tough,we could eat the rich.

    July 27, 2012 at 7:12 am | Report abuse |
  13. Linda Jones

    What I want to know is what is causing this, and where is all the water going that the drought areas normally get?

    July 27, 2012 at 7:25 am | Report abuse |
  14. Tom Sawyer

    Just drove through Western KY, part of Missouri and Arkansas last week. My route was right through the darkest Red color on the map above. Things looked surprisingly good. Grass was more green and lush than mine in Ohio. So, where's the drought??? Crops looked great. Irrigation was going strong but that's no different than any other year. Can anyone say a "ploy" to raise prices?? Now the food industry is pulling a play from the Gas/Oil playbook. Oh, it stormed last night so gas prices go up 75 cents a gallon in a day. Same thing with food now.

    July 27, 2012 at 7:35 am | Report abuse |
    • patrick

      drought is measured in soil dryness not greenness of plants.

      July 30, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Carrie

    Linda, a big part of the weather change is from the Gulf Zone becoming a dead zone like Whatever said. Something about this and the Gulf Stream.....

    July 27, 2012 at 7:44 am | Report abuse |
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