Since late 2010, much of the southernmost United States has been suffering through drought. When conditions reached their peak last summer, the resulting impacts were devastating, shrinking water supplies for cattle and crops, and contributing to huge agricultural losses. This spring, drought continues to plague large portions of the South.

The U.S. Drought Monitor estimates that 59.4 percent of the contiguous United States was abnormally dry and 37.07 was in drought as of April 24, an increase from 27.4 percent in drought a year ago. The color-coded, drought classification map above shows severe to exceptional drought conditions in southern and western Texas, the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, parts of Arizona, and a large swath of New Mexico.

The Southeast is experiencing the impacts of drought as well. During the past week, light to moderate rain fell across a large portion of the Southeast. This provided some much needed relief to crops and pastures but not enough to significantly ease the severity of drought conditions in Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle.

According to NOAA’s 2012 Spring Outlook, warm, dry conditions are expected to persist across most of the region, and expand in the West, northern Plains and upper Midwest throughout spring. The risk of wildfires and water stress on agriculture and livestock may intensify in upcoming months.

Souce: NOAA Climate Watch Magazine