Drought intensified in parts of the United States, such as the Northwest and Michigan, during July, while monsoon rains brought some relief to parched parts of the Southwest. And July was a sizzler, with 1,542 new daily high temperature records, 85 new monthly heat records and 23 all-time highs from late June through July 25, with many of those records set in Texas, New Mexico and Louisiana, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The extreme heat, added to drought conditions, intensified the dry conditions in much of the country.
The NDMC added 427 impacts to the Drought Impact Reporter in July, with most of those reflecting changes to vegetation, agriculture and water supplies amid the summer heat. Texas accrued 68 impacts as the drought and heat was felt in the ag sector, and Missouri and Colorado followed with 54 and 42 impacts, respectively, with impacts seen in agriculture and across the landscape.
It's hot! Record July temperatures heating up world, by Marina Pitofsky, USA Today, July 26, 2018
Texas crops, hay hampered by drought
The heat and drought combined to cause considerable stress and damage to crops and pastures in parts of the state in July. In drought-affected areas, pasture and hay struggled and dried up, while cotton fared little better, in some cases requiring replanting with other crops. In the Texoma region around Lake Texoma, not enough moisture fell to make a decent cotton crop, leaving cotton farmers looking at potentially huge losses. Ten to 20 percent of fields may be worth harvesting, while 80 to 90 percent may not. Insurance agents were assessing fields in the latter part of the month.
Given the poor pasture and hay growth, many producers were looking to buy hay, except that it was scarce and expensive, due to the widespread need for feeding livestock. So farmers in drought areas were abandoning their grain and other crops and were baling them for cattle feed. An extension forage specialist with the University of Missouri suggested that even weeds, such as crabgrass, foxtail, barnyard grass and goose grass, might be valuable forage for baling, if there was nothing else. The situation was similar in Missouri, where pastures were not growing, forcing producers to find an alternative or sell livestock. Cattle sales were much higher than normal in parts of Texas and Missouri where feed and water were in short supply.
Drought was also noticeable in north Texas where home foundations were cracking, with repair companies reporting twice the usual service calls. In east Texas, tree leaves were falling early, an occurrence that Texas AgriLife Extension agents blamed on drought.
Texas Crop and Weather Report – July 10, 2018, by Adam Russell, The Bryan-College Station Eagle (Texas), July 10, 2018
Texas Crop and Weather Report – July 31, 2018, by Adam Russell, The Bryan-College Station Eagle (Texas), July 10, 2018
Drought affecting cotton harvest, by Jesse Canales, KAUZ-TV CBS 6 Wichita Falls (Texas), July 24, 2018
Texas Farmers Baling Grain Crops For Cattle Feed In Drought, by Sonja Begemann, Drovers (Lenexa, Kansas), July 24, 2018
Drought Takes Toll on Home Foundations, by Scott Gordon, KXAS-TV NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth (Texas), Aug. 2, 2018
East Texas agriculture experts warn of 'false fall', by Haley Squiers, KTRE-TV ABC 9 (Pollok, Texas), Aug. 1, 2018
Missouri agriculture, livestock producers struggling amid drought
Similar to Texas, Missouri crops and pastures were suffering, leaving cattle producers to scrounge for hay or other feed and sell cattle. Farmers who responded to a Missouri Farm Bureau survey reported that the drought was severely hurting hay production and would likely force many producers to sell livestock. Most (98 percent) respondents reported that their first cutting of hay was of poorer quality or quantity than usual, averaging 43 percent below normal production. In northwest Missouri, more than 86 percent anticipated needing to purchase hay to get them through until spring, but just 13 percent said hay was available for purchase in their area. Producers expected to travel at least 110 miles to find suitable hay. In addition, hay prices have risen 106 percent, reaching as high as 130 percent in northwest Missouri.
Seventy-two percent of respondents expect to have to sell some of their herds because of drought. Of that 72 percent, more than 60 percent felt they would have to sell at least 20 percent of their herd.
Numerous livestock producers opted to sell cattle for lack of feed and water in the St. Joseph area. More cattle than usual went through stockyards, indicating harsh drought conditions drying up pastures and depleting water supplies. Many producers were culling herds and culling more deeply than they normally would.
Drought making hay prices skyrocket across Missouri, by Eric Bohl, Daily Journal (Park Hills, Missouri), July 18, 2018
In Missouri, ranchers are praying for rain, by Amy Bickel, High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal (Dodge City, Kansas), July 23, 2018
Water supplies, recreation affected in Colorado
Poor snowfall and low runoff affected water supplies and recreational opportunities in Colorado, where streamflows were less than half of average across nearly the entire state. With water levels so low, what water remained was too warm for fish. The lack of water was also hard on livestock producers, forcing them to sell cattle. A livestock auction held in La Junta moved 3,000 head at a time of year when they do not even typically have auctions. Crops, particularly in the southwest, were completely devastated by drought.
Drought and low flows on Colorado’s rivers and streams were bringing an early end to the rafting season unless monsoon rains really delivered. Outfitters in Summit County were idle, as warm temperatures meant that fishing trips were not possible. Meanwhile, to protect the fish, Colorado Parks and Wildlife closed sections of the Fraser and Colorado rivers in Grand County as low flows and high temperatures threatened the survival of trout.
Colorado’s water managers decry lack of water, surplus of fire, by Brent Gardner-Smith, Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Colorado), July 22, 2018
Rafting outfitters feeling effects of drought, low water levels in Colorado, by Lance Hernandez, KMGH-TV ABC 7 Denver, July 20, 2018
High stream temps prompt closures of Fraser, Colorado Rivers for first time in two decades, by Lance Maggart, Sky-Hi News (Granby, Colorado), July 31, 2018
Wildfires continue in California and the West
The 2018 wildfire season was burning vigorously in the West where years of drought dried fuels and primed the landscape for massive blazes. Experts say extreme heat, climate change, drought and other factors were the reasons for the explosive fire season. In California alone, dozens of people have died since October and more than 10,000 structures have burned from San Diego to Redding as the California wildfire season got off to its worst start in a decade. One of the reasons for the intense start was the recent 5-year stretch of drought that killed millions of trees, shrubs and bushes that remained standing and ready to burn. In addition, the dry winter of 2017-18 left vegetation exceedingly dry. Then late rains in May allowed grasses to flourish, increasing the amount of grass in many areas by 50 percent, creating more fuel to burn once the grass dried.
At the end of July, the Carr fire west of Redding consumed more than 110,000 acres and at least 818 homes as firefighters continued to battle the flames. The blaze was the largest and most destructive of 17 fires burning in the state as the fire season looked to be one of the earliest and worst fire seasons for the Golden State. The Carr fire was to soon be outdone by the Mendocino Complex fire, which ballooned to more than 300,000 acres on August 8.
One-fourth of California’s annual fire budget—at least $130 million—was spent in the first month of the budget year starting July 1 as numerous blazes burned and showed no sign of slowing down.
Explainer: Drought creates a perfect storm for wildfires in U.S. West, by Andrew Hay, Reuters, July 12, 2018
Why California’s fire season is off to the worst start in 10 years, by Paul Rogers, The San Jose Mercury News (California), July 10, 2018
The common thread in California's wildfires: heat like the state has never seen, by Rong-Gong Lin II and Ruben Vives, Los Angeles Times, July 31, 2018
Carr fire stats
Mendocino Complex fire at InciWeb
California governor pledges any resources needed for fires, by Janie Har and Brian Skoloff, The Orange County Register (Anaheim, California), Aug. 1, 2018