A historic US Drought that began in Texas in 2011, receded for a brief time, and then expanded to cover as much as 65% of the continental United States still troubles much of the country. Currently, according to reports from the US Drought Monitor, more than 53% percent of the contiguous United States still suffers from some level of drought.
Dryness persisted across much of the western US during winter. However, beneficial rains and snows did alleviate some drought in the center of the country. These drought conditions put the US wheat crop at risk throughout much of winter. While concern remains that wheat harvests will be below average, precipitation in parts of Iowa and other portions of the mid-west may have mitigated some of the damage.
Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, South Dakota, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming are still feeling the drought’s worst effects. Texas has been forced to tap into its emergency fund as it enters its third year of drought. Water shortages have led to the lowest cattle stocks for the state since 1952 and sparked an ongoing conflict over water with New Mexico. Texas and New Mexico’s conflict over water is now awaiting a resolution from the US Supreme Court.
Unfortunately, current forecasts by NOAA indicate persistent and intensifying drought in many of the hardest hit areas. While Nebraska and North Dakota may see some relief, much of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming remain under the gun. Further, forecasts indicate that conditions could worsen in Texas, Arizona, and California, while also spreading into much of Florida.
It looks like the next three months will see much of the US continuing to suffer from drought. Although the heat and dryness are not as severe as 2012, impacts are likely to remain high for hardest hit states. Overall, agriculture may not take as heavy a blow in 2013 as in 2012, but serious challenges will remain for many of the nation’s farmers. On the bright side, improvement appears likely through much of the US grain states of Iowa, Minnesota, Arkansas and Indiana. So, hopefully, improvement in these regions will help balance continued and increasing trouble in the west.
Taking into account the Texas drought of 2011, the historic drought of 2012, and the current drought, large portions of the US are now entering their third year of drought. A combination of a warming globe and weather patterns favorable for drought likely contributed to last year’s damage. In 2013, weather patterns that would normally contribute to drought have moderated somewhat but the persistent, long-term impacts of global warming remain. And these changes are predicted to result in a drying of the Southwestern states of the US to continue long-term.