U.S. Drought Intensifies

July 27th, 2012
in econ_news, syndication

Econintersect:  The July 24 U.S. Drought Monitor showed widespread intensification of drought conditions through the middle of the country, indiana-drought-July-2012SMALLaccording to the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  The report indicates that 53.44% of the United States (including Puerto Rico) to be in moderate drought or worse.  When last reported by GEI News on July 8, the moderate drought or worse area was almost 56% of the land area of the lower-48 contiguous states.  In the latest report the area has increased to 63.86%.  Severe drought (or worse) now covers more than 45% of the lower-48.  Extreme and exceptional drought has hit 20.57% of land area.  The unusual drought is damaging crops across the nation’s breadbasket and higher food and ethanol prices are expected over the next year.

Click on caption photo for larger picture of corn field near Vincennes, Indiana, where recent showers have freshened the weeds and grass but was too little, too late for the corn.

Follow up:

The following drought map is produced by 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.


From the Drought Monitor at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln:

“We’ve seen tremendous intensification of drought through Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Arkansas, Kansa and Nebraska, and into part of Wyoming and South Dakota in the last week,” said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist and U.S. Drought Monitor author. “The amount of D3 developing in the country has increased quite a bit for each of the last several weeks.”

Fuchs also noted that as of the July 24 U.S. Drought Monitor, every state in the country had at least a small area shown as abnormally dry or worse. “It’s such a broad footprint,” he said.

“This drought is two-pronged,” Fuchs said. “Not only the dryness but the heat is playing a big and important role. Even areas that have picked up rain are still suffering because of the heat.”

The forecasts say the outlook is for drought conditions to develop further and intensify into the fall.

Estimates of damage to crops is varied.  The U.S. Grains Council says that corn harvests will be 14% less than expected at the beginning of the planting season.  Another source, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), says that only 26% of the U.S. corn crop was in good or excellent condition as of July 22.  Both reports come from an article by Bloomberg written by Rudy Ruitenberg.  As of July 15 the USDA estimated that 38% of the corn crop was in poor or very poor condition.  Two weeks earlier that number was 22%.  If the USDA estimates are accurate then the grains council may be very much too low in their crop loss estimates.

Pictured below is a devastated corn field in Kansas.  It looks like it might as well be in the Sahara Desert.


John Lounsbury


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