Drought Tortures Half of U.S.

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The catastrophic drought of 2012 has lingered on in some parts of the United States, while other areas of the country have slipped back into dry conditions. U.S. Drought Monitor statistics released recently show that approximately half of the contiguous U.S. now suffers some degree of drought.

Multi-year drought tortures the western half of the United States, especially in portions of Texas, western Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, California and the Four Corners states, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor’s latest maps. These ongoing dry conditions contributed to the wildfires that devoured forests and homes in the western United States this year.

However, there has been some improvement. Less of the western United States suffers under “exceptional” and “extreme” drought than at the start of this year. In January, The National Drought Mitigation Center classified 6.75 percent of the Lower 48 as in “exceptional” drought and 21.31 percent as “extreme.” Those statistics have dropped to 1.25 percent and 9.86 percent, respectively.

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The Midwest and southern Mississippi River Valley escaped from the drought after a wet winter. Though recently, dry conditions have returned to the Midwest. A streak of high temperatures and little rain caused a “flash drought” in the corn-growing region. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that approximately 45 percent of the nation’s prime corn growing regions have dipped into drought as the harvest season approaches.

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2013 has been a year of contrasts for corn-growing communities. For example, Burlington, Iowa, had its wettest spring on record since 1898, but also its driest summer in that same time period.

IMAGE: “Pray for Rain” placard in Wichita Falls, Texas on April 5, 2013. (Billy Hathorn, Wikimedia Commons)