Weather Summary: A strong upper-level ridge of high pressure continued to dominate the nation’s weather this U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) week, bringing well above-normal temperatures to much of the country east of the Rockies. Beneath the core of the high, hot and dry weather baked the central and southern Plains to Ohio Valley. Monsoon showers and thunderstorms brought areas of rain to the West, cool fronts moving along the high’s northern edge triggered scattered showers and thunderstorms in the northern tier states, and a front skirting the high dropped beneficial rain along its eastern and southern peripheries. July 22 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports indicated that 55 percent of the nation’s pasture and rangeland was in poor to very poor condition, breaking last week’s record. In the Plains and Midwest states, crop losses mounted, ranchers liquidated herds, and trees continued to drop leaves and branches. On July 25, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack designated 76 additional counties in six states as drought disaster areas, bringing the total for the 2012 crop year to 1369 counties across 31 states. Over two dozen large wildfires were burning by the end of the USDM week – most in the West but several in the Plains.
The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic: Light to locally moderate rain fell across parts of the region. The rains were generally enough to keep the drought depiction status quo, although enough fell to dent D0 and D1 in northern Maryland. D1-D2 expanded across the Chesapeake Bay and into northern Virginia where rains were below-normal, and D0-D1 expanded in southern New England which experienced subnormal precipitation and widespread low stream levels. According to USDA statistics, 80 percent or more of the topsoil was rated short or very short of moisture in New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, and half or more of the pasture and rangeland was rated poor or very poor in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York.
The Southeast, Deep South, and Southern Texas: Areas of beneficial rain, locally over three inches, fell from the central Appalachians to Tennessee Valley, central to coastal North Carolina, the Lower Mississippi Valley, and parts of western Florida. D0-D2 were pulled back from West Virginia to Tennessee, extreme northern Alabama, northwest Georgia, and parts of North Carolina, and D0-D1 were reduced in Louisiana and Mississippi. But the showers and thunderstorms were spotty, with many areas getting below-normal rainfall or hardly any at all. D0 expanded in southern and northeastern Florida, D1 was added to the southern coast of North Carolina and expanded in the Florida panhandle, and D1-D4 expanded in parts of Alabama and Georgia.