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, officials from the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln say.
Analysis of the latest drought monitor
data reveals that 46.84 percent of the nation's land area is in various stages
of drought. Previous records were 45.87 percent in drought on Aug. 26, 2003,
and 45.64 percent on Sept. 10, 2002.
Looking only at the 48 contiguous
states, 55.96 percent of the country's land area is in moderate drought or
worse -- also the highest percentage on record in that regard, officials say.
The previous highs had been 54.79 percent on Aug. 26, 2003, and 54.63 percent
on Sept. 10, 2002.
"The recent heat and dryness is
catching up with us on a national scale," says Michael 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
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 percent of the country
is in either extreme or exceptional 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
The U.S. Drought Monitor is a joint
endeavor by the National Drought Mitigation Center at UNL, the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture 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
U.S. Drought Monitor Shows Record-breaking Expanse of Drought
July 10, 2012