By Brad Rippey, meteorologist, Office of the Chief Economist, U.S. Department of Agriculture
During the five-week period ending on Dec. 2, 2014, contiguous U.S. drought coverage decreased to 29.13 percent -- a 0.48 percentage point drop. Several weeks ago, in mid-October, U.S. drought coverage fell below 30 percent for the first time since December 2011.
During November, most of the significant changes involved reduction in the intensity and/or coverage of dryness and drought, primarily across the southern and eastern United States. In Texas, for example, drought coverage fell from 49 to 43 percent during the 5-week period ending on Dec. 2. During the same period, reductions in drought coverage of at least five percentage points were also noted in Connecticut (39 to 27 percent) and Georgia (13 to 4 percent).
Drought still covers a substantial portion of the southern Plains and the western U.S. On Dec. 2, the highest level of drought—D4, or exceptional drought—was noted in portions of California (55 percent), Nevada (12 percent), Oklahoma (5 percent), and Texas (3 percent). California also led the nation with 80 percent coverage of extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4). It should be noted that widespread precipitation fell across California after the latest Drought Monitor’s cutoff time, which was 7 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (4 a.m. Pacific Standard Time) on Dec. 2.
According to the latest “agriculture in drought” statistics, based on the Dec. 2 Drought Monitor, 18 percent of the domestic hay acreage and 28 percent of the U.S. cattle inventory were located in a drought-affected area.
On Dec. 2, more than one-third (37 percent) of the nation’s winter wheat production area—mainly across the southern Plains and the interior Northwest—was located within a drought-affected region. The last complete USDA/NASS winter wheat condition report of the season, dated Nov. 23, indicated that 13 percent of the wheat was rated in very poor to poor condition in Texas, along with 11 percent in Oklahoma. Like Texas, the Washington State wheat crop was rated 13 percent very poor to poor.
Heading into the winter of 2014-15, the Midwest remains nearly drought-free. On Dec. 2, drought covered just 5 percent of the U.S. corn production area and 3 percent of the soybean area. Due to late maturation of the U.S. corn crop and cold, snowy November weather in the Great Lakes States, more than one-fifth of the corn remained in the field on Nov. 30 in Wisconsin (78 percent harvested) and Michigan (77 percent harvested).
Weather outlook: During the next several days, most of the U.S. will experience near- to above-normal temperatures. During the weekend, however, cool air will briefly cover portions of the Plains, Midwest, and East. Meanwhile, a significant rainfall event will unfold during the next three days across the South, East, and lower Midwest, with 1- to 2-inch totals common from the northern Mississippi Delta and the Ohio Valley into southern New England. Farther west, precipitation will end later today across the Southwest, while dry weather will prevail during the next five days northwest of a line from Nebraska to Michigan. Elsewhere, significant Western precipitation will shift into the northern Pacific coastal region, away from California’s key watershed areas, with 2- to 4-inch totals expected during the next five days from western Washington southward into northwestern California.
The next issuance of this emailed drought update will be Thursday, January 8, 2015, 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: