2012 drought most severe since 1950s

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The summer is less than a month old, and it has already made its way into the history books. The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) released its June “State of the Climate” report this morning, reporting that by the end of June, 55 percent of the contiguous United States was considered in “moderate” to “extreme” drought.  

The last time drought was this extensive was in December 1956 when about 58 percent of the country was in these same drought conditions. It was also the 10th driest June on record, dating back to 1895.

In the Midwest alone, the report showed that areas in drought quadrupled in June.

According to the report, the corn and soybean agriculture belt has been hit especially hard by the drought over the past three months. The region has experienced its seventh warmest and 10th driest April to June period on record this year, resulting in the fifth most severe Palmer Z Index.

“Topsoil has dried out and crops, pastures, and rangeland have deteriorated at a rate rarely seen in the last 18 years, yet drought barely registers for the region on the longer-term PDSI because the previous several years have been very wet (in fact, 2008, 2010, and 2011 all rank in the top ten wettest category for April-June),” the NCDC reported.  

The last time the April to June Palmer Z Index was this dry was 1988, which had the most severe Palmer Z Index and the driest and twelfth warmest April-June. The second, third, and fourth most severe April-June Palmer Z Index occurred in 1934, 1936, and 1987, respectively.

The report also summarized climate per region. In the Midwest, June temperatures were slightly above-normal while June precipitation was well below-normal for the southern two-thirds of the region.

“Rainfall totals were less than half of normal June totals for most of the southern two-thirds of the Midwest and between 10 and 25 percent of normal in scattered pockets of several states,” the report said.

No end is in the near future for the drought, and the drought outlook indicates that the drought is only likely to persist – if not further intensify – through the end of September.



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