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. foffe1

    Increasing violence an economic melt-downs in our societies are the result of an atheist mentality where every individual decides for himself what is right and what is wrong. Christian values such as loving unconditionally, forgiving generously and returning good for evil has to be taught to our children at an early age. As opposed to violence, greed and immorality being taught on TV, video games and music. Replace the self centered ideology of (what's in it for me) with the Golden Rule.The family is the building block of society. When it fails, so does society. People need to get reacquainted with God and get on their knees and learn to pray again. Isn't it ironic that as more churches have become empty and torn down, more prisons have been built and filled. To paraphrase a scripture: We are reaping what we have sown.

    July 27, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jay

      I'm in the South, and I don't know many Christians who practice what they preach. We can go to Church on Sunday and be told all those nice things you say, but then we become Americans as soon as we leave. Chuch and Capitalism are complete opposites, so how can we be an American and a Christian?

      July 27, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • JoJo

      foffe1, with all due respect, my friend, I have no argument with the importance you place on love, forgiveness, anti-greed, anti-violence, and other fundamental ethical values. Where I diverge from you is your assumption that you can only believe and attempt to follow those if you believe in God. In my experience, this is not true. Especially since the unnecessary torture-laden holocaust in Iraq enthusiastically supported by people who call themselves "Christian", I no longer see a positve correlation of ethics with theism and a fair amount of evidence that they are NEGATIVELY correlated, at least in recent years. I want people to be happy and healthy out of compassion whether God exists or not, and I try, in my imperfect way, to live toward that end. I bear you no malice.

      July 27, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • rosie

      How did the Chinese society survive 5,000 years with Jesus or your god to bother them? Why do you think that your silly god has anything to do with anything? The world exists without god just fine.

      July 27, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • K

      No one changes over night...after we accept Jesus as the Lord, we all go through the progress be more like by day or by second by second by power of Jesus in us. For myself I pray that it takes short progress. God bless

      July 27, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • jg

      The majority of the greed and lack of unconditional love is coming from the "christian" right. There are plenty of ways to teach morality without using fear and shame, as Christianity does as its main tools, to coerce children into submission. Successful human family units existed long before we made up god. Rules of morality existed well before judo-christian dominance. (Hammurabi's code... for example) Getting on your knees won't do anyone any good. How about you stand on your feet and actively try to do something to make the country better for a change instead of praying and hoping someone else will do it for you.

      July 27, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gomes

      You do realize that over 70% of the inmate populations of prisons in the US consider themselves "Believers." The problem is people like you who think we need an imaginary sky wizard to keep people acting decent and moral. Chimps don't believe in god and I have been to religious events that have disturbed me far greater than watching the violent meeting of two rival chimp clans. Your religion is a poison for the rational mind and your belief that 'anyone who isn't a Christian, can't be moral' is in itself a very immoral and primitive form of thinking.

      July 27, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • youidiot

      God simply does not exist.

      July 27, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |

    This just in, President Obama says "I inherited the drought from President Bush". Meanwhile, Mitt Romney Blames President Obama's policies for the drought. He also lays some of the blame on Former President Clinton. Al Gore has remained silent on the matter.

    July 27, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Heywood Jablowme

    It's the wrath of God! He's angry at those area's of the country that call themselves Christians but are the least tolerant.

    July 27, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Caiha

    This isn't happening, we have much more experience in these sort of things than you, and I can assure you this is not happening. Go back to your regular lives.

    July 27, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Hez316

    @jay. It's not popular but how about capitalism tempered by Chrisianity? Should mitigate avarice

    July 27, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  6. asyouaskforit

    Rosie, you are wrong about christianity in China. There are more christians in China than in America, 150 million of them, despite persecution.

    July 27, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ken

    the farm belt of the USA is usually blessed with perfect corn growing soil temperatures and rain. It grows like weeds. A couple time per century the snowpack doesn't soak the ground, the heat parches the earth and rain doesn't come. The bureau if reclamation controls irrigation for 5 western regions, but the low water also has to ensure h2o for 30 million municipal customers, hydroelectric dams, river navigation and fisheries customers

    July 27, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Snapshot

    has anyone given the thought that this maybe part of the global warming cycle?

    July 27, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken

      Snapshot- absolutely it is looked at closely to see if there is a relationship of this event and global climate change. This is one event, and droughts do happen periodically. So climatologists will look at this event as well as others to see if it represents a significant change it the trend line of weather events.

      July 27, 2012 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. SPLAT!~

    Irrigation on a large scale is irrational and just not feasible. Go to Google Earth and focus on Iowa. The white gridwork that appears as you get closer is actually the states system of gravel roads. Each square of the grid is one sq. mile
    (640 acres.) And the topography is far from flat.

    July 27, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. the 1 prophet

    i said this before in my posts a cataclysmic happening is on the way things will get worse with this drought in the USA millions will be affected

    July 28, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Southern mom


    July 29, 2012 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
  12. only1pbj

    Isn't it ironic the far religious right who claims to be 'pro-Bible', continue to contradict Scripture where God said to take care of the earth (Genesis); continues to say man has no impact on his world.

    July 29, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Be D'Vant

    Global Warming? But that would mean the scientists are right and if that is true, then may be sweet baby jesus doesn't love us, and if that was true gay's might get the right to get married, and if that is true the whole world is coming to an end

    July 29, 2012 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. rob breisch

    time to start using the water from the Great Lakes.21% of the fresh water on earth is located there.Start a pipe line and distribute a % of the available water to farms in the drought areas.It can be done!

    July 30, 2012 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  15. Brian

    It seems a bit odd, but the peak of the drought on the above map seems to be focused over the New Madrid Fault zone. Could just be coincidiental, but it sure makes you wonder...

    July 30, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
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