Surprise! The drought improved slightly across the contiguous United States this week, but even that may not be enough to save many key agricultural states from the drought’s stubborn grip. Currently, 57.64 percent of the Lower 48 is in moderate or worse drought, compared to 58.87 percent last week.
Few states were lucky enough to report any improvement – or any notable change – in the drought. It appears that the stubborn drought that made history books last year has now transitioned into the 2013 drought, and though its historical impact has yet to be decided, its grasp on the Plains remains firm.
Nebraska, in particular, has been at or near the top of the drought-plagued states for nearly six months, and conditions have yet to move in any direction. Seventy-seven percent of the state is in exceptional drought, and this number hasn’t shifted since the first week of October. Less than one-quarter of an inch of rain has fallen in the Corn Husker State in the past 30 days, and while January is traditionally dry, this year it only adds to the intense drought already in place.
According to a report by The Associated Press, Nebraska farmers are being advised to prepare for another rough, drought-dominating growing season. State climatologist Al Dutcher said that the state needs 8 to 10 inches of moisture more than normal to break the drought, and there is a 70 percent chance the drought will linger for the second consecutive year. Read more here.
Other agricultural states are feeling the full effect of the drought as well, including Kansas (36 percent in exceptional drought), South Dakota (31 percent in exceptional drought), Oklahoma (40 percent in exceptional drought), and Texas (7 percent in exceptional drought).
Close attention is being paid to Colorado and Wyoming as the drought is quickly settling in. Last year the area saw one of its worst – and in some cases earliest – wildfire seasons. With 59 percent of Colorado and 64 percent of Wyoming in extreme or worse drought, the threat of another fire-filled year make many nervous.
"We know we're going to have a fire season. It's just a question of how long and how bad," says Jeremy Sullens, a wildfire analyst for the National Interagency Fire Center told USA Today in an article available here.
Despite the grim outcome, the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook shared some hope with states, especially those in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and the northern half of South Dakota as improvement was likely through the end of April. For the rest of the drought-ridden states, the news isn’t as hopeful. See the map here.