The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report posted this morning shows that the total Abnormally Dry/Drought area declined slightly to 80.1%, but the drought intensity increased. The total Severe to Exceptional (D2-D4) area increased to 45.6%. The area of Extreme drought (D3) jumped by over 5 percentage points to 18.2%, and Exceptional (D4) more than doubled to 2.4%.
From the National Drought Summary:
A strong upper-level ridge of high pressure continued to dominate the nation’s weather this U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) week, bringing well above-normal temperatures to much of the country east of the Rockies. Beneath the core of the high, hot and dry weather baked the central and southern Plains to Ohio Valley. Monsoon showers and thunderstorms brought areas of rain to the West, cool fronts moving along the high’s northern edge triggered scattered showers and thunderstorms in the northern tier states, and a front skirting the high dropped beneficial rain along its eastern and southern peripheries. July 22 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports indicated that 55 percent of the nation’s pasture and rangeland was in poor to very poor condition, breaking last week’s record. In the Plains and Midwest states, crop losses mounted, ranchers liquidated herds, and trees continued to drop leaves and branches. On July 25, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack designated 76 additional counties in six states as drought disaster areas, bringing the total for the 2012 crop year to 1369 counties across 31 states. Over two dozen large wildfires were burning by the end of the USDM week – most in the West but several in the Plains.Images (click to enlarge): U.S. percentage area of drought, weekly from January 4, 2011 through July 24, 2012, CapitalClimate chart from U.S. Drought Monitor data; U.S. Drought Monitor map for July 24, 2012