Recent heavy rains may have helped move parts of the central Plains from drought to deluge, but drought still dominates in the western half of the United States.
The latest “Drought Monitor” paints a clear picture of drought across the contiguous United States – vibrated hues of red and maroon dotting the western half of the country. The drought is far from over in parts of New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska in a parched corridor spanning more than 750 from the southern tip of New Mexico to the Nebraska’s South Dakota border.
Kansas now takes the reign as having the highest percentage of land in exceptional drought – the highest level reported by the “Drought Monitor.” Twenty-five percent of the state is in exceptional drought. However, drought is now primarily centered in western counties after numerous storms drenched central Kansas with more than 5 inches of rain over the last week.
States further to the west are also dealing with excessive levels of drought, including California where at 77 percent of the state has been in severe or worse drought since mid-June. Extreme drought is quickly spreading across parts of Nevada, Idaho and Oregon.
The easing drought in central Kansas may help local crops, but that doesn’t hold true for all of the western Corn Belt.
“The portion of the U.S. corn production area in drought has been edging upward in recent weeks, from 17 to 22 percent between July 9 and August 6,” Brad Rippey, a meteorologist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Chief Economist, said in a release. “The increase has been largely due to resurgent drought in the western Corn Belt, including northern Missouri, eastern Nebraska, and western Iowa. Soybeans in drought have also increased in the last four weeks, from 8 to 14 percent. Hay (34 percent) and cattle in drought (47 percent) were both unchanged from last week.”