The 2012 drought is still at a record level, but new data provide a smidgen of hope.

Nearly 65 percent of the continental U.S. is currently in moderate or worse drought, the largest percentage reported at those levels in the Drought Monitor’s 12-year history. This marks the second consecutive record-setting week.

There was, however, slight improvement in conditions from last week.

Drought sets record high…again“(This week's) map showed 34.35 percent in severe drought or worse, down from 34.97 percent a week earlier; 17.35 percent in extreme drought or worse, compared with 17.63 percent the week before; and 4.98 percent in exceptional drought, compared with 5.20 percent the preceding week,” said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist and U.S. Drought Monitor author.

Corn Belt hit hard
Many areas in the High Plains are still in severe drought or worse, including Kansas and Nebraska. Nebraska, in particular, has reported more than 70 percent of the state in exceptional drought, the highest level reported by the Drought Monitor. Conditions in the state really started to go downhill in mid-July, and since then drought conditions have only intensified.

As a whole, 61 percent of the High Plains is in extreme or worse drought with 24 percent in exceptional drought.

The Midwest was able to see some reprieve earlier this month as post-Hurricane Isaac drenched many areas in the region. Iowa, however, wasn’t as luck. Sixty-six percent of the state is in severe to exceptional drought.   

Conditions in the Midwest are far better than in the High Plains, with just 12 percent in extreme or exceptional drought. 

Check out how your state or region is doing here.

Drought outlook shows nothing but brown
In its latest release of the U.S. Season Drought Outlook, the Climate Prediction Center anticipates no improvement for much of the western Corn Belt through the end of the year.  If conditions develop and persist as expected, drought will continue in nearly all locations west of the Mississippi river.

“A relatively dry climatology favors persistence across the northern/central Great Plains and upper Mississippi Valley,” Brad Pugh wrote in the outlook discussion. “Development is forecast for areas in the Dakotas, Minnesota, and western Wisconsin that are currently designated with the D0 category (abnormal dryness).”

Though the outlook may be less than desirable, it would be even bleaker if La Niña had continued.  

“If we had a third consecutive La Niña, there are some statistics that would be scary. But the odds of La Niña continuing are very small right now,” Mark Svoboda, climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center told CNN.

Read more here.