“Right now, bizarre as it may sound, we’re headed back into drought.”
That’s what one Illinois meteorologist told the Kane County Chronicle as drought returns areas previously left unscathed.
In the latest Drought Monitor report, drought is no longer confirmed to the dry Southwest or the scorched West. Now, abnormally dry conditions – the lowest level of drought reported by the Drought Monitor – have returned as far east as Indiana.
Minnesota, in particular, has seen drought take over. Last week, 68 percent of the state was free from any drought. Just a week later, the Drought Monitor report shows just 19 percent of Minnesota without drought.
However, federal meteorologists don’t expect the drought to linger in these key corn- and soybean-growing areas. With the exception of Nebraska and Kansas, the drought in most of the High Plains and Midwest are expected to be short-term.
Further to the southwest, the news was slightly better. Drought in New Mexico was slashed significantly, dropping to 49 percent in extreme or worse drought from 67 percent reported last week. Drought also eased in Texas and Colorado.
The hot, dry summer has been especially ruthless in the West, and with more than half of the West in severe or worse drought, conditions are unlikely to ease soon.
“Wildfires remain a problem in parts of the West,” said Mike Brewer, this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor author. “The National Interagency Fire Center reported 51 active, large wildfires on August 20, up from last week. Large fires continue to burn in 10 western states including Idaho, where the Elk Fire has consumed over 130,000 acres of vegetation, an increase of over 30,000 acres this week. … [T]he cost of battling wildfires in 2013 has now exceeded $1 billion.”
Currently between 34 percent (Oregon) and 94 percent (California) of most states in the West are considered in severe to exceptional drought.