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. Really?really?

    The farmers from red states will gladly reach out their hands for government help but criticize others that do. I'm not saying they dont need it I'm saying it's hypocritical!

    July 27, 2012 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
  2. Common Sense

    Climate changes....? For reeaaaal?

    July 27, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  3. snowdogg

    huffing the natural gas again?

    July 27, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  4. Leroy

    What is causing the "persistent ridge of high pressure" whatever that is? Why is it not moving? Why can't be seed the clouds, or do other things with our technology to try to get rid of the "persistant ridge" or whatever it is? Why no discussion about this?

    July 27, 2012 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  5. mizh

    Mother Nature will always win out, no matter mankind's accomplishments... Let's hope the country sees a good, rainy autumn.

    July 27, 2012 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  6. Big Cain

    Just a thought. Farmers should install sprinkler systems before planting.

    July 27, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • azezel

      They never needed to. The typical farmer is upside down to his eyeballs as it is. There is a joke that has been around for a while. A farmer wins the lottery... you know what his response is? "Great I can keep farming." If it wasn't for the farm subsidies and the loans from the mega banks the square mile farm lots would have went untended a while back and we would have seen a new dust bowl 10 years ago. If you ever get to go out muding several miles outside a major city and its sub urbs take a good look at the fences. Many of them haven't been redone since the homestead families were giving up in the 50s and 60s to get jobs in the modern economy.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Thermion7

      What makes the "grain belt" of America so Amazing and the bread basket or the whole world is the fact that the soil conditions, temperature and annual rainfall makes it ideal for growing these crops. In a typical year corn and soybeans shoot up like weeds (6.2 million acres of corn in indiana alone)... with no artificial irrigation needed. Occasionally (2 or 3 times per century) there is no snowfall to be absorbed by the ground... High temperatures dry out the soil... and rain doesn't come and corn crops dont pollinate correctly or mature fully.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • SPLAT!~

      Yeah, and we should build an escalator to the moon. It's just not feasible.

      July 27, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. OxyRush

    Can't we just pray away the dry?

    July 27, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  8. flick42

    I am frightened by all of this and by people who deny that climate change is HAPPENING NOW! it's quite possibly irreversible if we don't make changes now. plant more trees to absorb carbon emissions and control the dust storms that are occurring in the west, build wind mills for wind power, use solar power (there's certainly is plenty of sun), conserve water, ban fracking which uses tons of water. this is a dangerous time and we have got to wake up. congress has to wake up and stop trying to disable the EPA. we need to protect clean air, water, and other natural resources.

    July 27, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Glad your not my sarge

      Like the processes that caused "snowball earth" 650 million years ago, we are past the tipping ponit already on the way to sandbox earth...except this time it's our own fault, not weathering and continental positions that caused the locking up of carbons. Deniers just show repeated ignornace and oblivion to the cause-effect relationship.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  9. azezel

    Another good argument for the bell frame, nawapa phino, nuclear upshift and a starflight project.

    July 27, 2012 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  10. Freedom Fascist

    That sucks hey America. Maybe we could ask for help form the world but hey, do we really deserve it? It's going to be fun trying to grow gardens on the pavement of our military industrial complex. This is a warning shot across the bow, you can't eat tanks and drones...

    July 27, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  11. OxyRush

    I'm sure that none of the affected people who vote Republican will be accepting any gubmint assistance. That would just be socialism. After all, the gubmint has no place in our lives and everything you built you built all by yourself with no outside influences or assistance from anyone, especially no danged gubmint.

    July 27, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  12. freshnewblog

    It seems to me like the news is reporting like crazy on this but I have not noticed the difference in my local stores. Why do the news reports of it seem sensational to me?

    July 27, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • LarryB

      Stick around awhile. It takes time for all of the price hikes to work their way to the supermarket, but it'll happen. Why not stock up now on non-perishible (or "not so perishable") foods and cushion yourselves a bit against what's to come?

      July 27, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thermion7

      It's good that you havent seen the prices spike yet... Since the farm losses havent actually hit the food stream yet... dramatic spike now might indicate price gouging by retailers. The price rise will come as corn farmers are unable to meet demand due to low supply Mexico is a top 10 producer and is having a worse crop than us. (demand is also increased by loss of pasture grass by beef and dairy farmers which means they need to buy corn to feed their livestock) within 6-10 months – Corn and its associated products (Meal, oil, flour and starch) and the animals that use corn for food dairy, beef, swine, chicken, hen eggs, turkey should all be at least 10% more expensive.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Thermion7

    This is unfortunate. The Corn yield loss seems to be a forgone conclusion... Soybeans are getting close to being 'too late to save'. This is going to be a rough year for the Agricultural sector.

    July 27, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JoePub

    Gee, you would think that the drought is making leaps and bounds in mere minutes instead of days judging by the frequency of these stories.

    July 27, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • ADiff

      You have to remember that CNN's not a news organization, but a political advocacy organization. Advocacy of its editorial positions drives everything it presents, from its advocacy of certain politicians, to it support for particular political agendas, to its justification of specific ideological ideas. It's actually gotten even worse than Fox.

      July 27, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark in Atlanta

      Too right JoePub. The last thing we need is to be reminded that we are experiencing the kind of extreme weather those "climate change" phonies have been predicting. More of this, and people might actually think we have some sort of problem here.

      July 27, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Roger

      It is frustrating to me that people continue to deny global warming due to human activities. I have read over 100 articles by reputable scientists who discuss how climate warming in happening. I hope those who deny climate change have done the same. There is a lot of false information floating around, much of it propoganda from the right wing who do not wish to decrease their historically high profits by slowing down their carbon emissions. For this reason they spead false science to justify their irresponsibility to future generations. Folks, it is happening.

      July 27, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Healing Enso

    Define DROUGHT. Here in Arizona, we've had less than 1 inch of rain this year. it doesn't get much drier than that. So I can only assume it means % deviation from normal. In Phoenix, we are in a 20-year drought. But overall, my garden still gets about 30 gallons a day to keep it alive & there's no particular conservation pressure.

    July 27, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thermion7

      There are 3 types of drought. Meteorological, Agricultural and Hydrological. (this is all three) . but loosly -A long period of abnormally low rainfall, especially one that adversely affects growing or living conditions. Of course that amount differs by location. The Olympic Peninsula in Washington State averages 140" of rain per year- 90" would be a terrible drought... Phoenix averages about 8"... a 90" year would turn Phoenix into a lake.

      July 27, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Yes, it is calculated based on the normal amount of rain a given area normally receives.
      As for conservation pressure, this is purely political. Last year the South East of Texas was under exceptional drought conditions. My city issued a voluntary reduction in water usage and a day later I got a letter from the HOA asking we water the lawns more to kep them green. Our governor led a prayer day. Other cities/states may have gone the conservation way instead of using as much as possible and then praying for more.

      July 27, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
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