By Brad Rippey, Meteorologist, Office of the Chief Economist, U.S. Department of Agriculture
During the four-week period ending on Sept. 30, 2014, contiguous U.S. drought coverage decreased to 30.57 percent -- a 2.21 percentage point drop. Coverage reached its year-to-date peak of 40.06 percent on May 6, but subsequent rainfall in various regions has reduced drought’s overall imprint.
During September, statewide decreases in drought coverage of at least 10 percentage points were noted in states such as Kansas (from 72 to 46 percent in drought), Texas (from 61 to 49 percent), and Georgia (from 25 to 15 percent). However, there was a large area of dry weather during September stretching from the southeastern Plains into the mid-South, middle and upper Ohio Valley, and the Northeast. In particular, coverage of moderate drought (D1) increased during September from 0 percent to 99 percent in Rhode Island, 0 to 38 percent in Connecticut, and 0 to 27 percent in Massachusetts. Several other Eastern States are not yet experiencing drought, but saw sharp increases during September in the coverage of abnormal dryness (D0). Among them: Maine (from 0 to 54 percent abnormally dry), New Jersey (from 1 to 42 percent), Virginia (from 11 to 48 percent), and New Hampshire (from 0 to 36 percent).
Drought still covers a substantial portion of the southern Plains and the western U.S. On Sept. 30, the highest level of drought—D4, or exceptional drought—was noted in portions of California (58 percent), Nevada (12 percent), Oklahoma (5 percent), and Texas (3 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 Sept. 28, according to USDA. Following California were Oregon (47 percent very poor to poor), Nevada (45 percent), Washington (41 percent), New Mexico (31 percent), and Texas (31 percent). According to the latest “agriculture in drought” statistics, based on the Sept. 30 Drought Monitor, 21 percent of the domestic hay acreage and 30 percent of the U.S. cattle inventory were located in a drought-affected area.
In recent weeks, unfavorably dry weather has returned to portions of the southern Great Plains. This resurgent dryness could have implications for fall grazing of recently planted wheat on the southern Plains, as well as possible issues with establishment of the winter wheat crop. On Sept. 30, 35 percent of the nation’s winter wheat production area was located within a drought-affected region.
As the end of the 2014 growing season nears, conditions remain mostly favorable for Midwestern corn and soybeans. By Sept. 28, nearly three-quarters of the U.S. corn (74 percent) and soybeans (72 percent) were rated in good to excellent condition. On Sept. 30, drought covered just 5 percent of the U.S. corn production area and 2 percent of the soybean area.
Weather outlook: A strong cold front will continue to generate widespread showers and thunderstorms—locally totaling an additional 1 to 3 inches—while pushing across the eastern half of the U.S. The front will reach the Atlantic Seaboard by Saturday, although rain will linger through the day in parts of the Northeast. In the front’s wake, snow showers will develop in a few areas, most notably in the upper Great Lakes region. Throughout the nation, a long period of dry weather will trail the front’s departure, except for some showers early next week in the eastern U.S. By Saturday morning, a growing season-ending freeze – roughly on schedule—can be expected in the Dakotas and environs, with temperatures near 32 degrees Fahrenheit as far south as Nebraska and Iowa. Windy conditions will accompany the Midwestern cold spell, resulting in a fairly uniform temperature distribution—and no frost. On Sunday morning, breezy conditions will persist in the Midwest, with temperatures generally ranging from 35 to 45 degrees in major corn and soybean production areas.
PLEASE NOTE: The next issuance of this emailed drought update will be Thursday, Oct. 30, 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: