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National Drought Mitigation Center

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Drought Intensifies Over Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma

August 16, 2012

Drought intensified over Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma and eased slightly in other areas during the seven days that ended Aug. 14, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor map released today.

“One of the bigger changes was the continued intensification of drought across Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri,” said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist and U.S. Drought Monitor author at the National Drought Mitigation Center, based at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “We had a fairly substantial expansion of exceptional drought in Kansas and Missouri, and some new areas of exceptional drought in Nebraska and Oklahoma.”

Statistics released with the map showed:

  • The total area of Kansas in exceptional drought jumped to 63.3 percent as of the Aug. 14 map, up from 38.58 percent the previous week. The entire state continued to be classified in severe drought or worse.
  • In Missouri, the area in exceptional drought as of Aug. 14 increased to 35.51 percent, up from 13.89 percent the previous week, and the entire state was in severe drought or worse.
  • Oklahoma saw the area in exceptional drought increase to 38.86 percent as of Aug. 14, up from 16.03 percent the week before, with the entire state in severe drought or worse.
  • In Nebraska, exceptional drought expanded to 22.53 percent of the state, up from 3.46 percent, and the entire state was in severe drought or worse.

Fuchs noted that in far south Texas, a patch of extreme drought expanded, and extreme and exceptional drought grew in eastern Colorado.

The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook released Aug. 16 offered some hope for continued improvement along the eastern edge of the drought, in the Southeast and in Arizona. “The active pattern over the Southwest associated with the seasonal monsoon will continue to bring improvements to the drought intensity there,” Fuchs said. “We think the Corn Belt, the upper Mississippi Valley, the lower Great Lakes and the Ohio Valley should see some improvement to the current drought status over the next several months. Improvements are also anticipated over the southeastern United States.  Outside of those areas, drought will persist over much of the central and southern Plains and into the western United States.”

The Aug. 14 U.S. Drought Monitor map saw a slight reduction in the area of the United States in all categories of drought except for the most intense, exceptional, which expanded. The 51.7 percent of the country in moderate drought or worse was down from 52.27 percent the week before. The map showed 38.09 percent in severe drought or worse, compared with 38.48 a week earlier; 19.79 percent in extreme drought or worse, compared with 20.18 percent the week before; and 5.23 percent in exceptional drought, up from 3.51 percent the preceding week.

By early July, the extent of drought in the United States was greater than at any other time in the 12-year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor. Many drought observers are comparing the drought of 2012 to the drought of 1988, the last major drought to hit the U.S. Corn Belt. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has lowered its crop yield forecasts due to drought.

The total area in moderate drought or worse – 51.7 percent of the 50 states plus Puerto Rico – is still the greatest since 2000. Before 2012, the largest expanse in U.S. Drought Monitor history was when drought in 2002 and 2003 covered nearly 46 percent of the country.

Cooler temperatures and rains in some areas brought some relief. “We saw continued improvements in portions of Ohio, northern Indiana and northwest Ohio,” Fuchs said. “There was improvement from D4 to D3 in Georgia and Alabama, and the area of D3 split in two in southern Iowa. In southern Michigan, D2 receded into D1.”

Drought Monitor authors synthesize many drought indicators into a single map that identifies areas of the country that are abnormally dry (D0), in moderate drought (D1), in severe drought (D2), extreme drought (D3) and exceptional drought (D4).

The U.S. Drought Monitor map is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and about 350 drought observers across the country. It is released each Thursday based on data through the previous Tuesday.

Statistics for the percent area in each category of drought are automatically added to the U.S. Drought Monitor website each week for the entire country and Puerto Rico, for the 48 contiguous states, for each climate region, and for individual states: http://drought.unl.edu/MonitoringTools/USDroughtMonitor/DroughtMonitorTips.aspx

The National Climatic Data Center maintains drought data based on the Palmer Drought Severity Index, calculated to the beginning of the historic record: http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/sotc/drought/2012/06/uspctarea-wetdry-mod.txt

U.S. Drought Monitor: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu

Seasonal Drought Outlook: http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/expert_assessment/seasonal_drought.html

-- Kelly Helm Smith, National Drought Mitigation Center

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