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US Drought now covers half the country

Growing up in the United States, I was often told stories about the 1930’s and the “Dust Bowl” years, a decade of record-setting droughts and heat waves, as well as severe dust storms.  In fact, the year 1936 is known for having the most severe heat wave in the history of North America.

The year 2012 isn’t as bad as 1936.  But Americans have a hard time not comparing the two.

Nearly half of the continental United States is in severe or worse drought.  The hardest hit area is the central part of the country known as the Great Plains.  Also commonly referred to as the nation’s “Bread Basket”.

Dave Hennen, a meteorologist who works for CNN says, “You’d have to go back to the 1930’s to find any drought as widespread as this one.”

95% of the state of Arkansas, 93% of the state of Missouri, more than 80% of Kansas and Nebraska and 68% of state of Colorado are in a severe to exceptional drought.

More than half of all the US counties have been designated disaster zones.

So what does this mean for farmers?

According to CNN, nearly three-quarters of the nation’s cattle acreage and about two-thirds of the nation’s hay acreage is now in a drought-stricken area.

United States Department of Agriculture researchers say that an average of 37% of the nation’s soybeans were ranked last week from very poor to poor.  That’s the lowest quality recorded since a massive drought in 1988.

Nearly half of America’s corn crop was also rated very poor to poor while 57% of the its pastures and range land were similarly graded.

This year’s harsh conditions suggest that food prices next year could surge by as much as 4.5%.

And it looks like there is no end in sight.

The US Seasonal Drought Outlook, valid until the end of October, was released yesterday by the US National Weather Service and NOAA.  It shows the drought is expected to persist or even possibly intensify across more than half the country.


All images courtesy of NOAA

By WeatherWatch Analyst Howard Joseph along with contributions from CNN


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