US Drought Continues Intensifying
The nation’s drought continues getting worse; it’s building on itself, and without a significant change in weather patterns, the prognosis isn’t looking good.
The July 24 map put 53.44 percent of the United States and Puerto Rico in moderate drought or worse, up from 53.17 percent the week before; 38.11 percent in severe drought or worse, compared with 35.32 a week earlier; 17.2 percent in extreme drought or worse, compared with 11.32 percent the week before; and 1.99 percent in exceptional drought, up from .83 percent the preceding week.
‘We’ve seen tremendous intensification of drought through Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Arkansas, Kansa and Nebraska, and into part of Wyoming and South Dakota in the last week,’ said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist and U.S. Drought Monitor author. ‘The amount of D3 developing in the country has increased quite a bit for each of the last several weeks.’
Fuchs also noted that as of the July 24 U.S. Drought Monitor, every state in the country had at least a small area shown as abnormally dry or worse. ‘It’s such a broad footprint,’ he said.
‘This drought is two-pronged,’ Fuchs said. ‘Not only the dryness but the heat is playing a big and important role. Even areas that have picked up rain are still suffering because of the heat.’
The forecast for most of the drought-affected area is for drought to continue to develop and intensify. ‘Conditions are likely to persist,’ Fuchs said. ‘We’ll see further development and intensification into the fall.’ Fuchs based his assessment on the Seasonal Drought Outlook released July 19.
The extreme temperatures are already affecting infrastructure and transportation options, but it’s going to affect food costs going forward. Considering that the economy is in a precarious position, higher food costs could play into national politics, even as there’s little any President can do about a drought. The drought is affecting 88% of the nation’s corn crop, which is a key crop - it goes into all manner of food products, plus it’s used in animal feed and is the leading farm export, to say nothing of its use in ethanol production. With the ongoing drought, the CPI for food is estimated to rise 4-5% on beef, and slightly lower increases for pork, eggs, and dairy products.
It’s all part of the record weather recorded across the nation. Through July, it’s the hottest year ever recorded in the US, with records dating back to 1895.
Despite the problems, consumers may see slightly lower beef prices in the interim: cattle farmers have already begun culling their herds because of reduced grazing lands and the higher costs for feed leading to more beef availability.