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. rad666

    After America's water rights are sold to foreign companies, Americans will be drinking their urine.

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

      The Revelations and mark of the beast coming to a theatre near you.

      July 27, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  2. mecatfish is cold, colored, carbonated, fermented....WATER.

    July 27, 2012 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • vik

      in order to drink beer, you need water first. no water=no beer.

      July 27, 2012 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  3. matdaniel

    SOLUTION: it is time to plant and eat cactus.

    July 27, 2012 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  4. Papa

    It's the Chinese, they are doing this to our weather, that new space station of theirs is irradiating our atmosphere with an energy beam every time it passes over the USA

    July 27, 2012 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  5. dastreagus

    hahaha baby thief country. I am lovin' it.

    July 27, 2012 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  6. James

    I wonder if your government will maintain the ethanol in gasoline mandate next year? Corn for our cars or our tables? Hmmm...Lobbyists??

    July 27, 2012 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
  7. snowdogg

    Another failure by the Obama administration. [Expect to hear this on Fox News]

    July 27, 2012 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
  8. 1amazed1

    I see room for price gouging now. Same thing as these off shore trillions being hidden to avoid taxs but I bet the off shore trillions get looked over as always. Upper government again.

    July 27, 2012 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  9. Barry G.

    The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.

    Revelation 8:7

    July 27, 2012 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Hikerstud

      Just one more sign it is coming but most will not turn and be healed. They will continue to follow the lies of the secular humanist, atheistic, evolutionistic, liberal, lgbt, heathen, pagan, decieved crowd known as the kingdom of mankind under the rule of rebellion and pride (Satan).

      July 27, 2012 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
    • cedar rapids

      *faceplam* to the pair of you.
      join the real world please.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  10. fish192

    If produce/meat will be expensive next year due to the drought, then produce/meat should be cheaper this year. I haven't seen that.

    Maybe US needs to start planting their crops earlier now – be flexible to the weather.

    July 27, 2012 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  11. anon

    Why not build 10 water desalinization facilities around the US and just pipe water in? 1. it would provide jobs. 2. Reduce the sea level rise in the Al Gore model, 3. End the drought.

    It's not like the technology doesn't exist.

    July 27, 2012 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
    • fritz

      I'm using tried and true Roman technology. I'm buiding a rainfall recovery system that will store up to ten million gallons of oxygenated soft water divided by upper and power reservoirs. The system uses the public dirt road winding through my ozark ridgetop land as the aquaduct. The system will have no moving parts because it will be entirely gravity driven and therefore, totally automated. Those wily Romans had it goin' on with theit hydraulic technology. Too bad they used lead instead of copper for their plumbing.

      July 27, 2012 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
  12. The Jackdaw

    Yes, but there is no such thing as climate change, right FOX News?

    July 27, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  13. Barry G.

    The Scriptures of the Hebrews and the Christians teach that our actions have various consequences and even affect the earth.

    July 27, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • The Jackdaw

      Where do people like you come from, Barry G?

      July 27, 2012 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  14. Thinktr8

    Not to worry! We have plenty of natural gas, coal and oil!

    July 27, 2012 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      That's funny considering in Kansas are the Koch brothers (Koch industries) who own the group that sued the US/EPA to be aloud to create smog and are the 10th biggest polluters in the world. They also hire lobbyists/ get senators elected to try to abolish the EPA. I hope they can drive around and see the hell they have created right there at home, their good republican friends and neighbors should be so proud of their creation!

      July 27, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  15. TheBigSarge

    people pump an unbelieveable amount of "bad and carcenogenic" material into the air, but to believe that man is responsible for global warming/climate change is rediculous. ten years ago it was cow fa rts that were the problem, now they think it is cow processing so we should not eat meat on mondays.

    the facts are the facts, the earth wobbles in its rotation around the sun. because of this wobble, we have years where the sun strikes places of the earth head on, and years where the sun strikes the placess of the earth at more of an angle. during these "angle years" it is cooler in those areas than where the earth is struck head on.

    check the almanac, you will see that there is truth to the weather patterns that cause the "ten year heat wave" and "hundred year storms".


    July 27, 2012 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • da da dale

      climate changes caused by man, rediculous? That "rediculous" was the word GWB always used to discard truth ful accusations. The fact is we don't know but since the industrial revolution, the last century, the average earth temps, ozone levels, and carbon dioxide levels are increasing.

      I sounds like you have a closed mind, and you have never been wrong before.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Lobosan

      Your ignorance of the basic chemistry and physics involved in Global Warming is appalling. But not to fear, scientists who are actually TRAINED (i.e., not CNN trolls) have been proving an established causal link between global warming and increased CO2 emissions for decades. Yes, weather changes do occur naturally, but the RATE at which the changes are currently occurring is what warrants concern.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • climate_bob

      With all due respect, that is absolute nonsense. The earth-sun orbit does show small fluctuations, but only over many thousands of years. It has essentially -no impact- on climate chanage over tens to hundreds of years.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Samuel Markes

      Ignore science, but sound like you know what you're saying. Nice; you should run for tea party office.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • ken

      That is a old ridiculous argument. One cannot use historical data to compare to what is going on today. In the history of the world has there ever been so much unnatural pollution being spewed into the atmosphere by humans or animals? How can you sit in your artmchair and think you know more than 95% of scientists who claim there is global warming and man is to blame? The other 5% of the scientists are like the 1% of the American people, they just don't care as long as there is money involved they will attempt to make a case against it.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
    • flick42

      yeah, the Farmer's Almanac says that the summer of 2012 was supposed to be mild. we've superseded the expectations of the Farmer's Almanac. to not believe that humans have contributed to climate change is ridiculous.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Glad your not my sarge

      So glad you're ny my sarge....there has been no rotational differences...and if you believe that, you better get a better tin foil hat to go along with your stupid ideas. Greenhouse gases are at the highest levels ever, and increased since the industrial revolution to that point from a point where they were normal. Tell me it's not man and I'll also show you a guy who believes in fairies and jeebus.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • LarryB

      Keep deluding yourself, Sarge. As the years go by and the mountain of evidence of climate change continues to grow, you "world is flat" types will just look sillier and sillier. If you bury your head in the sand and refuse to accept that the problem exists, you will never be equipped to deal with it. In the meanime, just get out of the way and keep irrelevantly attacking Al Gore. Yeah, that'll work.....

      July 27, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Assuming your argument is correct then it explains the frequency of occurrences. What you don't explain is why the severity of these occurrences is increasing, i.e., every day more of the old weather records are being broken. Also, why are all of these cycles now occurring at the same time? The chance of this being a natural coincidence is statistically very unlikely.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • terri

      How difficult is it for you to see facts from data piling up that man has accelerated climate change? While it is certainly true that the Earth's climate has changed, quite dramatically over millions of years, man has indeed sped up the process to our own detriment. Fortunately we will die off and the Earth will live on. Unfortunately we leave our grandkids nothing but problems and cling to our needs ignoring that of anyone other than ourselves. Thanks so much for ignoring facts and being a part of the uncaring problem.

      July 27, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • farmergreg

      Now that is an intelligent response,

      July 31, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
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