Visit www.usda.gov/drought for the latest information regarding USDA’s drought assistance.
Recent rains have dented drought in the Southeast, but southwestern and central portions of the U.S. have experienced little overall change in drought coverage. By January 1, 2013, the portion of the contiguous U.S. in drought stood at 61.09%, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, down from a September 2012 peak of 65.45%. Despite the slight decline in overall U.S. drought coverage, the portion of the nation experiencing the worst drought category – D4, or exceptional drought – has been slowly rising. Exceptional drought covered 6.75% of the nation on January 1, the greatest U.S. coverage since November 2011.
Drought continues to take a severe toll on the nation’s hard red winter wheat, rangeland, and pastures, as well as the livestock sector. For 26 consecutive weeks (July 10, 2012 – January 1, 2013), drought has encompassed more than two-thirds of the U.S. cattle inventory and at least 60% of the domestic hay acreage. According to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, the portion of Oklahoma’s winter wheat crop rated in very poor to poor condition on December 30, 2012, stood at 61%. On the same date, almost half (49%) of the wheat in Nebraska and nearly one-third (31%) of the wheat in Kansas was rated very poor to poor.
Historically, drought has seldom covered such a large area of the United States. Prior to the development of the U.S. Drought Monitor in 1999, the Palmer Drought Index (PDI) was a widely used drought indicator. However, the PDI is better suited toward depicting long-term, not agricultural, drought. Nevertheless, it is useful to compare the peak PDI drought coverage during the drought of 2012 (61.8%) to historic droughts such as 1988 (52.3%), the 1950s (60.4%), and the 1930’s (79.9%). In fact, according to recently revised statistics provided by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, PDI drought coverage in July 2012 was the greatest since the end of the Dust Bowl era – 62.1% in December 1939. The all-time record for PDI drought coverage in the U.S. was 79.9% in July 1934.
Short-Term Weather Outlook: A suddenly more active weather pattern will continue for the remainder of the week. A storm system currently centered over the south-central U.S. will drift northeastward, reaching the upper Great Lakes region by Friday. Storm-total rainfall could reach 2 to 4 inches, with locally higher amounts, from eastern Texas into lower portions of the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys, possibly causing some areas of flooding. Toward week’s end, a second storm system will emerge from the Rockies, providing beneficial snow to the northern Plains and upper Midwest, but triggering a second round of heavy rain in parts of the South. Combined, the two storms could produce as much as 4 to 8 inches of rain from eastern Texas into the mid-South. Elsewhere, the central and southern Plains will receive some beneficial precipitation, but the Southwest and the southern Atlantic region will remain mostly dry through week’s end. Significantly colder air will trail the second storm into the western and central U.S.