U.S. Drought Monitor Shows Record-Breaking Expanse of Drought

U.S. Drought Monitor Shows Record-Breaking Expanse of Drought

UNL map shows 55.96% of country is in moderate drought or worse.

More of the United States is in moderate drought or worse than at any other time in the 12-year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor, according to officials from the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Analysis of the latest drought monitor data revealed that, on July 5, 46.84% of the nation's land area is in various stages of drought, up from 42.8% a week ago. Previous records were 45.87% in drought on Aug. 26, 2003, and 45.64% on Sept. 10, 2002.

U.S. Drought Monitor Shows Record-Breaking Expanse of Drought

Looking only at the 48 contiguous states, 55.96% of the country's land area is in moderate drought or worse--also the highest percentage on record in that regard, officials said. The previous highs had been 54.79% on Aug. 26, 2003, and 54.63% on Sept. 10, 2002.

"The recent heat and dryness is catching up with us on a national scale," says Michael J. Hayes, director of the National Drought Mitigation Center. "Now, we have a larger section of the country in these lesser categories of drought than we've previously experienced in the history of the Drought Monitor."

The monitor uses a ranking system that begins at D0 (abnormal dryness) and moves through D1 (moderate drought), D2 (severe drought), D3 (extreme drought) and D4 (exceptional drought).

Moderate drought's telltale signs are some damage to crops and pastures, with streams, reservoirs or wells getting low. At the other end of the scale, exceptional drought includes widespread crop and pasture losses, as well as shortages of water in reservoirs, streams and wells, creating water emergencies. So far, just 8.64% of the country is in either extreme or exceptional drought.

U.S. Drought Monitor Shows Record-Breaking Expanse of Drought

"During 2002 and 2003, there were several very significant droughts taking place that had a much greater areal coverage of the more severe and extreme drought categories," Hayes says. "Right now we are seeing pockets of more severe drought, but it is spread out over different parts of the country. It's early in the season, though. The potential development is something we will be watching."

The U.S. Drought Monitor is a joint endeavor by the National Drought Mitigation Center at UNL, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, USDA and drought observers across the country.

To examine the monitor's current and archived national, regional and state-by-state drought maps and conditions, go to http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu.

Also on July 5, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman expanded early roadside haying efforts due to current drought conditions throughout the state.

Heineman directed the Nebraska Department of Roads to advance the starting date for roadside haying to July 5, where the previous effect date would have been July 15, in the following 13 counties: Antelope, Boone, Buffalo, Cedar, Clay, Dixon, Fillmore, Johnson, Knox, Madison, Nance, Pierce and Saline.

Just two days prior, the governor directed early roadside haying to begin on July 3 for the following 55 counties: Adams, Arthur, Banner, Blaine, Boyd, Box Butte, Brown, Chase, Cherry, Cheyenne, Custer, Dawes, Dawson, Deuel, Dundy, Franklin, Furnas, Frontier, Gage, Garden, Garfield, Gosper, Grant, Greeley, Harlan, Hayes, Hitchcock, Holt, Hooker, Howard, Jefferson, Kearney, Keith, Keya Paha, Kimball, Lincoln, Logan, Loup, McPherson, Morrill, Nuckolls, Pawnee, Perkins, Phelps, Red Willow, Richardson, Rock, Scotts Bluff, Sheridan, Sherman, Sioux, Thayer, Thomas, Valley and Webster.

Earlier this week, Heineman also authorized an emergency declaration for statewide drought that allows state personnel and resources to assist with emergency situations and prevention, and allows maximum flexibility to the state to deploy Nebraska National Guard and Nebraska Emergency Management Agency assets and resources as needed.

Keep up on the drought

Farm Progress is pooling all the coverage of the drought from across the country into a single place - www.DatelineDrought.com - where you can see a daily video from Max Armstrong, Farm Progress director of broadcast, and Farm Futures Senior Editor Bryce Knorr, along with national, local and regional coverage of the ongoing drought across the heart of the country.

TAGS: USDA
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