Tuesday, July 29, 2014

National Drought Mitigation Center

August 2013 Drought and Impact Summary

Drought in August 2013

  At the beginning of August 2013, the Aug. 6 U.S. Drought Monitor showed 45.49 percent of the contiguous United States and 41.37 percent of the entire country and Puerto Rico in moderate drought or worse.
  This change map shows the greatest areas of drought increase in August in the Midwest and Louisiana, with improvements from Texas to South Dakota and in the Southwest.
 
This map from the WestWide Drought Tracker at the Western Regional Climate Center shows how August 2013 differed from the 1981-2010 normal.
  The Midwest region saw drought expand from only 4.31 percent of the area in moderate drought on Aug. 6 to 25.16 percent in moderate drought on Aug. 27. 
  At the end of August 2013, the Aug. 27 U.S. Drought Monitor showed 50.04 percent of the contiguous United States and 46.35 percent of the entire country and Puerto Rico in moderate drought or worse.
  The Monthly Drought Outlook from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center anticipates improvement in the Southwest, expansion in the Midwest, and little change to other drought areas. 

By Brian Fuchs, NDMC Climatologist

  • The portion of the country in moderate drought or worse expanded rapidly in late August due to heat. “Flash drought” in the Upper Midwest increased the total area of the contiguous United States in moderate to exceptional drought (D1-D4) on the U.S. Drought Monitor to 50.34 percent, which is the greatest area since April 9, when it was slightly higher, at 50.82 percent.
  • In Alaska, severe (D2) drought increased from 1.85 to 6.98 percent in August. The area in D2 drought, first introduced July 23, is the first severe drought in Alaska in the history of the U.S. Drought Monitor. The area in moderate or severe drought (D1-D2) increased from 20.44 to 27.66 percent during the month.
  • Drought conditions worsened in August as the proportion of the contiguous United States in drought climbed from 45.49 percent to 50.34 percent during the month.  The area in severe to exceptional drought (D2-D4) rose from 32.32 to 33.37 percent. The areas experiencing the most intense drought, extreme and exceptional (D3-D4), declined in August from 11.98 to 10.53 percent as these areas recorded some of their greatest rains in more than a year.
  • Even with unanticipated rains associated with tropical storm systems, Hawaii saw drought conditions spread from 33.10 to 38.73 percent during the month with the Big Island and Maui having the worst overall conditions. Drought has been continuously present in Hawaii since April 2008. 

High Temperatures

August ended with large areas of the midsection of the United States experiencing temperatures well above normal, which contributed to rapidly developing drought. Temperatures over much of the Plains, Midwest, and Southeast averaged below normal for the summer, contributing to many developmental delays in crops in the region. This trend reversed in August as temperatures in the 90’s brought “flash drought,” with dryness and heat rapidly stressing crops in the region. The response to the shift in temperatures was immediate as many areas had been dry but impacts had been offset by the cooler weather.  The northern Rocky Mountains were also quite warm in August, as temperatures were 3-5 degrees Fahrenheit above normal, while most of the rest of the Rocky Mountains, Texas, High Plains and Upper Midwest were 1-2 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

Dry Conditions

The dryness in the Midwest that developed in July continued in August, with many locations experiencing nearly record-breaking dryness. Portions of eastern Iowa were 4 inches below normal for the month and areas from northern Missouri into Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and southwestern Indiana were 2-4 inches below normal for the month. Eastern Texas and portions of Louisiana, southern Arkansas and western Mississippi were also dry in August, with departures of 2-4 inches common.

Staying Cool

Temperatures remained below normal in many areas. From Kansas to the Carolinas and up into the Northeast, temperatures for August were generally 2-3 degrees Fahrenheit below normal. In the Southwest, the monsoon precipitation also brought with it cooler temperatures for portions of northern Arizona, southern California and southern Nevada, where departures were 1-2 degrees Fahrenheit below normal for the month.

Wet Conditions

Frequent rains early in August across Kansas, southern Missouri and northern Arkansas brought drought relief. Areas south of the I-70 corridor in Kansas and Missouri received 2-4 inches more than normal precipitation during August. The Southeast continued to see frequent and heavy precipitation and most of the region had rainfall totals of 2-3 inches above normal for the month. Portions of the High Plains from central and northern Nebraska into the western Dakotas also recorded totals 2-4 inches above normal for August. The monsoonal moisture shifted to the west during August in the Southwest, where much of northern Arizona, southern California, western New Mexico and southern Utah were 1-2 inches above normal for the month. 

Movers & Shakers

State Percent area
Aug. 6, 2013
Percent  area Aug. 27, 2013
Status

Biggest Increases in Drought

Minnesota 1.71 54.9 moderate 
Iowa 16.51 60.23 moderate or severe
Louisiana 20.66 54.93 moderate or severe
Louisiana 0.00 35.12 severe

Biggest Decreases in Drought

New Mexico 68.84 48.88 extreme or exceptional
New Mexico 20.6 9.95 exceptional
Kansas 50.06 43.48 moderate to exceptional
Kansas 24.42 8.83 exceptional
 Colorado 71.62 59.65 severe to exceptional

Regional Overview

Midwest: The dryness in July and August coupled with extreme heat at the end of the month brought with it an increase in drought. Conditions in August worsened from 4.31 to 25.61 percent of the Midwest region in drought. Severe drought now covers 3.71 percent of the region with agricultural impacts the biggest concern.  Last year at this time, 65.38 percent of the region was in drought and 33.19 percent was in D3-D4 drought.

High Plains: Although some areas recorded above-normal precipitation, drought worsened overall in the High Plains, with 64.04 percent of the region now in drought compared to 60.77 percent at the beginning of August. The most intense levels of drought (D3-D4) improved from 19.25 to 16.58 percent during the month. Last year at this time, 88.07 percent of the region was in drought and 54.19 percent was experiencing extreme to exceptional drought.

South: The South saw some areas improve in August, while others worsened. The area in moderate drought or worse increased from 56.46 to 59.97 percent of the region. Extreme and exceptional drought conditions improved from 15.95 to 11.08 percent of the region.

West:  Western drought was mainly unchanged in August, with a very slight increase from 77.41 to 77.69 percent of the region in drought. There was a slight decrease in extreme and exceptional drought (D3-D4) from 18.96 to 17.96 percent.

Outlook

Potential for improvement to the drought in the Southwest continues into September with the monsoon season.  Other parts of the country currently in drought are likely to stay dry.  Drought may expand to cover more of the Midwest over the next several weeks in response to the late-season dryness.  Drought will also persist over Hawaii, but Alaska may see some improvements.  

This screen capture of the Drought Impact Reporter shows that August impacts were concentrated in Texas, Minnesota, Iowa, New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, Oregon and California.
This map and the one below it show drought's spread from July 30 to Aug. 27 through the U.S. Corn Belt.
These maps are part of the Agriculture in Drought analysis produced each week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of the Chief Economist.
The majority of impacts in the Drought Impact Reporter for August was divided almost evenly between Agriculture, Water Supply, Response to drought, and Plants & Wildlife (environment).

This chart color-codes impacts by category for each of the eight states with the most impacts in August 2013.

 

The Rim Fire is the third-largest in California history. As of Sept. 6, 2013, it had burned 246,350 acres and was 80 percent contained. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.

Intensifying heat and drought lower yield potential of Midwestern crops

by Denise Gutzmer, Drought Impact Specialist

Expanding drought damages crops in Midwest

Drought expanded in the central Midwest during August, harkening back to last summer when drought severely limited crop production and led to crop indemnity payments of $17.3 billion to the nation’s farmers. Concern for crops in the Midwest began as the cool, wet spring and flooding delayed planting. Crops developed shallow roots because there was plenty of moisture, so when the rain stopped falling in early July, the crops became stressed more quickly than they would have if they had deeper roots.

The heat, dwindling soil moisture and crop stress in the western Corn Belt led the U.S. Department of Agriculture to lower corn and soybean forecasts in its Aug. 12 report as crop damage continued in the Midwest. The corn production forecast was lowered to 13.763 billion bushels, down slightly from the 13.95 billion bushels forecast in July. The August soybean yield forecast fell substantially to 42.6 bushels per acre, compared to 44.5 bushels per acre in July. Soybean production was estimated to be 3,255 million bushels. [1]

Iowa crop status

The results of the ProFarmer Midwest Crop Tour’s swing through Iowa were not favorable. Scouts calculated that Iowa’s average corn yield may be about 137.3 bushels per acre. The corn was immature, needed more growing degree units and will need to be dried this fall. With adequate heat, the corn will reach maturity in early October if a freeze does not occur before then. Soybeans were in poor shape in many parts of the state, with some plants very short and many with far fewer bean pods than they should have had. The estimated maturity date for soybeans is early to mid-October. [2]

Cattle herd shrinking, beef prices rising

On July 1, 2013, the U.S. beef herd was the smallest since 1973 as high feed costs kept ranchers culling and slaughtering cattle in 2012. Retail ground beef prices in June 2013 were $3.382 per pound or 13 percent higher than the previous year and were near the record price of $3.407 set in January 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The government predicted that beef production in 2014 will fall by 4.9 percent to 10.93 metric tons for a fourth year of declining production. [3]

Cattle sales remained high in southeastern Colorado. The number of livestock sold was three times the usual number in La Junta this summer because prolonged drought has eliminated grazing and grass production in the region. [4]

Drought crimps cotton crop in West Texas

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Aug. 12 downgraded its forecast for the 2013 cotton crop to 13.05 million bales from the 14 million bales forecast in May.  Estimated production for the Texas cotton crop fell to 4.12 million bales, a decline of 18 percent, due in large part to drought. [5]

Wildfires

U.S. wildfires in 2013 have cost more than $1 billion to suppress. The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, raised the national wildfire preparedness level on Aug. 20 to the top level, the highest it has been in the last five years, as a multitude of wildfires blazed in the West, but has since reduced the preparedness level.  From the start of this year through Aug. 20, 33,000 fires charred 3.4 million acres, 963 homes and 30 commercial buildings and cost 30 firefighters their lives. The majority of these fires occurred in the West where drought has dried out vegetation and increased the fire danger. The number of wildfires and acres burned remained below the ten-year average. Hawaii is the only state that has had no wildfires in 2013. [6]

California battling Rim Fire, now third largest in state’s history

California continued to endure numerous wildfires, with the  third largest wildfire in the state’s history, the Rim Fire, burning 246,350 acres through Sept. 6, when the fire was 80 percent contained. The upcoming Santa Ana winds could make the bad fire season much worse. [7]

Wildfire, Jan. 1- Aug. 30, 2013
 Location Fires Acres
U.S. 35,338 3,804,401
Alaska 596 1,323,567
Idaho 1,115
674,220
California 7,179 459,422
New Mexico
940 213,210
Oregon 1,603 202,459
Colorado 1,097 195,250
Nevada 641 187,446
Montana 1,428 111,827
Arizona 1,548 103,374
This chart highlights fire statistics from states with more than 100,000 acres affected by wildfire. For the full list, please refer to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Low water in Lake Mead creates fears of shortage in Las Vegas

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said in its August forecast that less water will be released from Lake Powell in 2014, sending the smallest amount of water downstream to Lake Mead since construction of the Glen Canyon Dam was completed in 1966. The head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority was considering requesting federal disaster aid as the level of Lake Mead continued to fall, due to drought and increased water demand. [8]

Irrigation Water Short in Klamath River Basin

The lack of irrigation water in the upper Klamath Basin has deprived many agricultural producers of water needed to irrigate crops and pasture and maintain animals. Livestock producers have had to relocate herds for lack of grass and water or sell livestock. [9]

Drought concentrates wildlife, spreads disease in Klamath River Basin

Roughly nine thousand ducks died from avian botulism at the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Tule Lake, California, due to overcrowding, which contributes to the spread of disease. The nearby Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge was nearly dry because water shortages in the Klamath Basin meant that the refuge received no water this summer, leading the ducks to congregate at Tule Lake marshes. [10]

Drought contributes to mosquito boom

Drought, heat and heavy rainfall contributed to an explosion in the mosquito population in parts of the United States. In the Southeast, two years of drought were followed by excessive rains in 2013, reviving the deposited mosquito eggs from the past several years, giving the region three years’ worth of mosquitoes in one summer, said an insect expert from the University of Florida. Parts of the country with high mosquito populations include the Southeast, Connecticut, Minnesota and California. [11]

Last year’s drought shaping this year’s shipping contracts

Businesses such as barge operators that rely on the Mississippi River have begun to include protective clauses in their shipping contracts that require customers to cover any costs incurred due to high or low water. They are also constructing flood-resistant features at ports and trying to generate new revenue streams for lean years when weather brings financial losses. The last two years brought flood and drought, interrupting  barge movement on the Mississippi. [12]

References

1 “USDA lowers corn, soybean output for 2013,” by Christopher Doering, Des Moines Register, Iowa, Aug. 12, 2013. 

World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, Aug. 12, 2013, p. 15

2 “Iowa’s average corn yield: 137.3 bpa,” by Karen Schwaller, Messenger News, Fort Dodge, Iowa, Aug. 25, 2013.

3 “Burger costs rising with beef supply at 21-year low,” by Elizabeth Campbell, Bloomberg News, Aug. 11, 2013. 

4 “Cattle Ranching Walloped by Persistent Drought,” by Ben Markus, Colorado Public Radio, Aug. 26, 2013.

5 “Cotton Glut Expands to Record as Hanes Profit Gains,” by Luzi Ann Javier and Marvin Perez, The Washington Post, Aug. 29, 2013. 

6 “Hot, dry summer pushes wildfire spending past $1B,” by Jeff Barnard, Associated Press, Great Falls Tribune, Montana, Aug. 20, 2013.

7 “Top 20 Largest California Wildfires,” CalFire, Sept. 6, 2013.

“Rim Fire,” Sept. 6 update on InciWeb. 

8 “Feds announce cuts to releases from Lake Powell,” by Brian Maffly, Salt Lake Tribune, Utah, Aug. 16, 2013.

“Las Vegas water chief seeks disaster aid for Colorado River drought,” by Henry Brean, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nevada, Aug. 7, 2013. 

9 “No water, no food: Cattle moved from Modoc Point,” by Samantha Tipler, Herald and News, Klamath, Oregon, Aug. 12, 2013.

10 “Klamath drought kills thousands of refuge waterfowl,” by Jeff Barnard, Associated Press, Mail Tribune, Medford, Oregon, Aug. 29, 2013. 

11 “Experts: Mosquitoes worse this summer in parts of U.S.,” by Seth Borenstein, Associated Press, Duluth News Tribune, Aug. 20, 2013.

12 “Barge Operators Struggle Along the Mississippi,” by Cameron McWhirter and Caroline Porter, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 25, 2013.

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