U.S. drought coverage nearly doubled since March 2016
During the 4-week period ending on August 2, 2016, contiguous U.S. drought coverage increased to 21.12 percent—up 3.35 percentage points. Drought coverage has nearly doubled since reaching a 5½-year minimum of 12.41 percent on March 15, 2016. During the summer of 2016, drought coverage and intensity has increased in several areas across the Plains, South, and Northeast, but has mostly shrunk in the Midwest—except in the lower Great Lakes region.
In the last 4 weeks, the portion of both the U.S. corn and soybean production areas in drought remained nearly unchanged at 5 to 7 percent. Among the major production states, Ohio led with 53 percent of its corn production area and 50 percent of its soybean area in drought on August 2. Looking at the Midwestern States, only Ohio (13 percent), Michigan (12 percent), and South Dakota (11 percent) reported at least one-tenth of their corn in very poor to poor condition on July 31, according to USDA/NASS. Similarly, Midwestern soybeans were rated at least one-tenth very poor to poor only in Michigan (12 percent) and Ohio (11 percent). Still, Midwestern crops were mostly faring well, with 76 percent of the U.S. corn and 72 percent of the soybeans rated in good to excellent condition on July 31.
On August 2, drought was affecting 18 percent of the U.S. cattle inventory, up from 15 percent on July 5. Similarly, 17 percent of the nation’s hay area was in drought, up from 14 percent in early July. Nevertheless, 51 percent of the U.S. rangeland and pastures were rated good to excellent on July 31, while only 17 percent were rated very poor to poor. States reporting at least one-quarter of their rangeland and pastures in very poor to poor condition on July 31 included California (40 percent), Oregon (40 percent), Pennsylvania (40 percent), Georgia (37 percent), South Carolina (37 percent), Arizona (36 percent), Ohio (29 percent), Montana (29 percent), Michigan (28 percent), Alabama (26 percent), New Mexico (26 percent), Nevada (25 percent), and all six New England States—led by Connecticut (78 percent).
In recent weeks, extreme drought (D3) has returned to a few areas east of the Rockies, including the Black Hills and the southern Appalachians. On August 2, extreme drought covered just over 5 percent of South Dakota and nearly 4 percent of Wyoming. In the Southeast, coverage of D3 approached 13 percent in Georgia, was nearly 3 percent in Alabama, was just under 2 percent in South Carolina and Tennessee, and topped 1 percent in Mississippi. Blobs of severe drought (D2) covered parts of the Northeast, with D2 coverage by August 2 reaching 62 percent in Massachusetts, 24 percent in New York, 22 percent in New Hampshire, 21 percent in Rhode Island, and 10 percent in Connecticut. Meanwhile, 84 percent of California was in drought (D1 or worse) on August 2, while 43 percent was considered to be in extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4).
Short-term weather outlook: Active weather will prevail during the next several days in the Southeast and Southwest, with 2- to 4-inch totals possible in portions of both regions. Five-day totals of up to 8 inches could occur along Florida’s Gulf coast. Meanwhile, some of the Southwestern showers will spill across the central Plains, where rainfall could reach 1 to 3 inches. Farther north, showers associated with a cold front will sweep across the nation’s northern tier, reaching the Northeast by August 5-6. In contrast, hot, dry weather will persist on the southern Plains.