By Brad Rippey, Meteorologist, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Chief Economist
During the four-week period ending on July 1, 2014, contiguous U.S. drought coverage declined 3.31 percentage points to 34.01. Coverage reached its year-to-date peak of 40.06% on May 6, but subsequent rainfall across portions of the nation’s mid-section has reduced drought’s imprint.
Nevertheless, drought still covers a substantial portion of the central and southern Plains and the western U.S. On July 1, the highest level of drought—D4, or exceptional drought—was noted in portions of California (36%), Nevada (11%), Oklahoma (7%), Texas (5%), and Colorado (2%). California also led the nation with 79% coverage of extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4).
In addition, California topped the U.S. with 75% of its rangeland and pastures rated in very poor to poor condition on June 29, according to USDA. Following California were New Mexico (67% very poor to poor), Arizona (58%), Colorado (35%), and Nevada (35%). According to the latest “agriculture in drought” statistics, based on the July 1 Drought Monitor, 25% of the domestic hay acreage and 36% of the U.S. cattle inventory were located in a drought-affected area.
The nation’s winter wheat crop suffered from the effects of drought, a harsh winter, and several spring freezes. Based on the “agriculture in drought” statistics, 46% of the winter wheat production area was within an area experiencing drought on July 1. Nearly half (44%) of the U.S. winter wheat was rated in very poor to poor condition by USDA on June 29, paced by Oklahoma (76% very poor to poor), Texas (63%), and Kansas (61%), as May and June rainfall arrived too late to revive the crop. During the last two decades, only the drought-affected crops of 2001-02 and 2005-06 were rated lower overall at end of the growing season. The winter wheat harvest was well underway in southern production areas, with 89% of Oklahoma’s crop cut by June 29.
Near-record to record-setting June rainfall eradicated residual drought from the Midwest. As a result, drought covered just 5% of the U.S. soybean area and 8% of the corn area by July 1. Consequently, roughly three-quarters of the U.S. corn and soybeans were rated in good to excellent condition by the end of June. Corn, rated 75% good to excellent on June 29, has not been rated as highly at this time of year since 2003. That year, on the same date, corn was also rated 75% good to excellent. Soybeans, rated 72% good to excellent on June 29, have not been rated as highly at this time of year in the last two decades.
Weather outlook: The NWS has issued a hurricane warning along the North Carolina coast from Surf City to the Virginia border. Early on Friday, July 4, Arthur is expected to make its closest pass to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, possibly making landfall. Later in the day, conditions will begin to improve along the mid-Atlantic coast as Arthur begins to accelerate northeastward. Rainfall totals associated with Arthur and an approaching cold front could reach 2 to 6 inches along the Atlantic Seaboard from Florida to Maine. Farther west, showers will return to the northern Plains and Midwest during the weekend and early next week, with 1- to 2-inch totals possible in the latter region. Elsewhere, monsoon showers will begin to develop in the Four Corners States, while hot weather will persist across the remainder of the West and overspread the Plains.
PLEASE NOTE: The next issuance of this emailed drought update will be Thursday, August 7, 2014, unless conditions warrant an earlier release. The “U.S. Crops in Drought” products will still be produced on a weekly basis, and can be viewed at:
Archived “U.S. Crops in Drought” files can be downloaded at: