Brown lawns, drooping trees and wilted flowers blanket America as a record-breaking expanse of the nation withers in drought.
Currently, nearly 47 percent of the country suffers under drought conditions according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. If only the contiguous 48 states are considered, the figure jumps to approximately 56 percent.
The previous record was 45.87 percent in drought on Aug. 26, 2003, followed by 45.64 percent on Sept. 10, 2002. Considering only the lower 48, the numbers are 54.79 percent and 54.63 percent respectively.
The drought record setters from 2002 and 2003 were both more intense; more of the country was in extreme or severe drought, but 2012 still has a few months of summer left.
“Right now we are seeing pockets of more severe drought, but it is spread out over different parts of the country,” said Michael Hayes, director of the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. “It’s early in the season, though. The potential development is something we will be watching.”
The most extreme droughts are parching Colorado, Arkansas, Georgia, Arizona and extending to portions of neighboring states. No rain and high heat mean that the risk of more calamitous wildfires remains high in regions already being incinerated by some of the nation’s largest fires in history.
The extent of drought in the U.S. (Richard Tinker, NOAA, NWS, NCEP, CPC)