By Brad Rippey, USDA Meteorologist, Office of the Chief Economist, World Agricultural Outlook Board, Washington, D.C.
During the four-week period ending on August 5, 2014, contiguous U.S. drought coverage was virtually unchanged at 34 percent. Coverage reached its year-to-date peak of 40 percent on May 6, but subsequent rainfall across portions of the nation’s mid-section and the Southwest has slightly reduced drought’s imprint.
Nevertheless, drought still covers a substantial portion of the central and southern Plains and the western U.S. On August 5, the highest level of drought—D4, or exceptional drought—was noted in portions of California (58 percent), Nevada (12 percent), Oklahoma (3 percent), Texas (3 percent), and Colorado (less than 1 percent). California also led the nation with 82 percent coverage of extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4).
In addition, California topped the U.S. with 70 percent of its rangeland and pastures rated in very poor to poor condition on August 3, according to USDA. Following California were New Mexico (56 percent very poor to poor), Arizona (50 percent), Oregon (39 percent), Nevada (35 percent), and South Carolina (35 percent). According to the latest “agriculture in drought” statistics (attached), based on the August 5 Drought Monitor, 25 percent of the domestic hay acreage and 36 percent of the U.S. cattle inventory were located in a drought-affected area.
In recent weeks, a few pockets of moderate drought (D1) have developed in the Southeast. By August 5, drought covered 19 percent of Kentucky, 6 percent of Georgia, and 2 percent of Alabama. Early-August topsoil moisture was rated 57 percent very short to short in Kentucky, along with 44 percent in Georgia and 42 percent in Alabama.
Despite pockets of short-term dryness, overall conditions remained favorable for Midwestern corn and soybeans. A lack of Midwestern heat stress has been instrumental in maintaining nearly ideal growing conditions. By August 3, nearly three-quarters of the U.S. corn (73 percent) and soybeans (71 percent) were rated in good to excellent conditions—the highest such ratings in August since 2004. On August 5, drought covered just 6 percent of the U.S. soybean area and 9 percent of the corn area.
Weather outlook: Hurricane Iselle is bearing down on Hawaii and is expected to cross the Big Island tonight as a minimal hurricane or strong tropical storm. Iselle has the potential to produce damaging winds and flooding rainfall across the Big Island, where a hurricane warning is in effect. In addition, tropical storm warnings have been issued for Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Kahoolawe. Meanwhile on the U.S. mainland, rainfall during the next few days will be focused in the vicinity of a frontal zone stretching from the central Plains into the Southeast. The front will separate hot air across the South from relatively cool conditions in the Midwest. Five-day rainfall totals, in addition to what has already fallen, could reach 2 to 4 inches from the central Plains into the southern Mid-Atlantic States. In contrast, mostly dry weather will prevail in the Great Lakes region and the south-central U.S. Farther west, showers will continue in the Great Basin, Southwest, and Intermountain West, with 5-day totals exceeding an inch in some areas. Elsewhere, heat will persist in the Northwest.
PLEASE NOTE: The next issuance of this emailed drought update will be Thursday, September 4, 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: