The U.S. Drought Monitor for Jan. 8, released today, showed incremental reductions in drought around the country during the preceding week, but not enough to change expectations for a dry start to 2013 for much of the country.
The area of the entire United States shown in moderate drought or worse on the Jan. 8, 2013, U.S. Drought Monitor declined slightly to 50.74 percent from 51.44 the preceding week. The areas in all other categories of drought were also smaller than the week before.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture yesterday announced drought disaster designations for 597 counties in states with current growing or grazing seasons, making farmers in those counties and in 285 contiguous counties eligible for low-interest emergency loans.
The USDA’s drought disaster declaration came a day after the National Climatic Data Center mentioned in its annual State of the Climate Drought report for 2012 that moderate drought in July 2012 covered 61.8 percent of the contiguous United States, the greatest since the end of the Dust Bowl era, according to the Palmer Drought Index.
Brad Rippey, USDA meteorologist, added that the Palmer Drought Index shows that drought covered 62.1 percent of the country in December 1939, with the all-time record for drought coverage at 79.9 percent in July 1934. Climatologists use the Palmer, which can be computed to the beginning of the historic record, for longer-term comparisons.
Rippey also noted that for the 27th consecutive week, since July 10, 2012, drought encompassed more than two-thirds of the domestic cattle inventory and at least 60 percent of the domestic hay acreage.
The annual State of the Climate National Overview report for 2012 also came out Tuesday, confirming that last year was the hottest year on record for the United States, a full degree hotter than the previous record year in 1998. The report also noted that weather and climate experts named the Contiguous U.S. Drought to be one of the top 10 weather and climate events of 2012.
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 morning.
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. U.S. Drought Monitor data online goes back to January 2000. http://drought.unl.edu/MonitoringTools/USDroughtMonitor/DroughtMonitorTips.aspx
NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center maintains drought data based on the Palmer Drought Severity Index, calculated to the beginning of the historic record. The percent area of the U.S. in moderate to extreme drought since 1895 is online: http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/sotc/drought/2012/13/uspctarea-wetdry-mod.txt
U.S. Drought Monitor map, statistics and narrative summary: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu
National Climatic Data Center’s State of the Climate Drought Summary: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/drought/
Seasonal Drought Outlook: http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/expert_assessment/seasonal_drought.html
U.S. Department of Agriculture’s running tally of farm and food impacts from the Drought of 2012: http://www.ers.usda.gov/newsroom/us-drought-2012-farm-and-food-impacts.aspx
-- Kelly Helm Smith, National Drought Mitigation Center