The latest drought monitor image from the National Weather Service is not pretty (dated July 10), and the text that gives meaning to the image is no better:
Weather Summary: Rainfall was more abundant than last week. A broken pattern of moderate to locally heavy rains (isolated totals up to 5 inches) covered the central and southern Plains, the northernmost Plains and Great Lakes region, the immediate Ohio Valley, and a good chunk of the Southeast and interior mid-Atlantic. However, the heavier amounts were fairly isolated, and with the hot weather that covered much of the central and eastern United States, only a few scattered areas of dryness and drought experienced significant improvement. In addition, the areas with the greatest temperature anomalies (average daily maxima 10 to 13 degrees above normal) generally coincided with an area of scant rainfall across the Midwest, northwestern Ohio Valley, and southern Great Plains, resulting in another week of widespread deterioration and expansion of dryness and drought in these regions.
In the hottest areas last week, which were generally dry, crop conditions deteriorated quickly. In the 18 primary corn-growing states, 30 percent of the crop is now in poor or very poor condition, up from 22 percent the previous week. In addition, fully half of the nation’s pastures and ranges are in poor or very poor condition, up from 28 percent in mid-June. The hot, dry conditions have also allowed for a dramatic increase in wildfire activity since mid-June. During the past 3 weeks, the year-to-date acreage burned by wildfires increased from 1.1 million to 3.1 million as of this writing.
Emphasis added, as one who drives past fields of stunted corn and wilted beans every day. More and more farmers are cutting their fields for silage or simply plowing them under (see here for news from Indiana, Illinois, and Kansas, for example). The reason they are giving up is simple: it’s going to get worse as the summer progresses.
A lot worse.
From the Climate Prediction Center:
Latest Seasonal Assessment – Dryness and drought have been increasing both in extent and intensity across much of the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, the Corn Belt region, the middle and lower Mississippi Valley, and much of the Great Plains. Drought is likely to develop, persist or intensify across these areas. Scattered relief may come in the form of cold front passages or organized thunderstorm clusters (MCSs), but for the most part, summers are usually a fairly dry time of year for the central part of the nation. For the northern tier states, such as North Dakota, Minnesota, and upper Michigan, chances are better for getting frontal passages since these areas reside close to the average position of the polar jet stream during the summer. In the Southeast, drought improvement is expected across coastal portions of Georgia and South Carolina, due to the greater likelihood of a tropical cyclone affecting these areas, and also from sea-breeze driven thunderstorm activity. Across the Southwest, at least some improvement is anticipated across much of Arizona and New Mexico, with the seasonal monsoon starting to ramp up. At this time, it is uncertain as to how widespread or intense this years monsoon is likely to be. Finally, drought persistence is the best bet across the remaining portions of the Western U.S., given that summertime is usually their dry season.
It’s going to be bad, folks — bad all across the country. Bad for farms, and bad for anyone who eats food from farms. It’s especially bad for the poor, who are already stretched beyond the breaking point as it is.
Speaking of the poor being stretched beyond the breaking point, the GOP is working hard to make big cuts in the food stamp program, just as prices are about to rise dramatically. Lovely.