Extreme Drought Areas in US Nearly Triple in One Week

US drought monitor July 24 2012 imageUS Drought Monitor/Public Domain

The drought gets worse: The US Drought Monitor reports that areas on the nation under extreme drought conditions in key agricultural states has tripled in the past week. Furthermore, the amount of land experiencing drought conditions more broadly has increased to nearly two-thirds of the nation, up from 56% just a week ago.

Phys.org quotes Brian Fuchs of Drought Monitor:

That expansion of D3 or extreme conditions intensified quite rapidly and we went from 11.9% to 28.9% in just one week. For myself, studying drought, that's rapid. We've seen a lot of things developing with this drought that were unprecedented, especially the speed.

As for relief of the drought conditions, forecasters say it is likely to continue for several months. More specifically, in the near term, via Drought Monitor:

Forecast models for July 25-30 show a front piercing the upper-level high early in the period, bringing scattered showers and thunderstorms to Great Plains and Midwest core drought area. Rainfall amounts may reach an inch in places, with a few locations receiving possibly 2 or more inches. The heaviest amounts from the front and low pressure system are expected to be in the Upper Great Lakes and Northeast, where locally 3 inches or more of rain may fall.  Parts of the South could see an inch or more of rain as the front makes its way to the Gulf Coast. Monsoon showers could drop up to an inch of rain, total, across the Four Corners states, and frontal rains in the Northern Rockies could bring scattered light showers, but the rest of the West should be dry.  Temperatures may dip from the frontal passage, but the week should average warmer than normal for most of the country.

For July 31-August 8, dry weather is expected to dominate from the West Coast to Northern Rockies, and from the Central to Southern Plains.  Above-normal precipitation is forecast for the Southwest and from the Upper Mississippi Valley to Ohio Valley, parts of the Southeast, and from the Mid-Atlantic states to coastal Northeast.  Above-normal temperatures are expected for much of the country, especially the Rockies and Plains states, while below-normal temperatures may hug the West Coast.  Western Alaska is forecast to be wetter than normal, northern Alaska warmer than normal, and the southern areas cooler than normal.

In addition to the effects of commodity prices, and the predicted affect on food prices going into 2013, Reuters reports that precipitation is so scarce that the Mississippi is running exceptionally low, forcing barges to take extraordinary measures to avoiding running aground:

The lower Mississippi River now sits so low that barge operators hauling some $180 billion in goods must lighten their loads for fear of getting stuck. If water levels drop any lower, industry insiders say, prices could rise on the raw commodities commonly shipped by boat -- coal, grain, petroleum and steel, to name a few.

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