Not even spotty – though welcomed – rain this week could rescue the nation’s heartland from the grips of the now historic 2012 drought.
According to the latest Drought Monitor map, many areas in key corn- and soybean-producing states are smothered in hues of red and maroon, indicating the most brutal levels of drought. Even Brian Fuchs, a climatologist and U.S. Drought Monitor author, admitted that it’s “hard to believe that it's getting worse, but it is, even with some rain in the region.”
"Drought continues to intensify through the Midwest and Plains states," he added.
Just how bad is it?
More than half of the country’s corn-growing farmland is suffering from extreme and exceptional drought, compared to 14 percent reported in these same acres less than a month ago.
"This week, we saw extreme and exceptional drought continue to expand or intensify over parts of Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Illinois," Fuchs said. "[Exceptional] drought has been introduced from east central Kansas to west central Missouri."
The outlook for the country’s crops and livestock herds are bleak. As Reuters reports, corn and soybean condition have fallen to the lowest since the major drought of 1988, propelling prices of both crops to all-time highs last month.
“Reports of water-related impacts are ticking upward with each passing week as mandatory restrictions continue to ramp upward,” Fuchs wrote in the Drought Monitor report. “As the drought continues, this will undoubtedly become a more prevalent issue as the agriculture season passes and attention turns to next year's crops or herds."
Rain is expected to dot the Midwest through the next week, though it’s unlikely that the region will receive enough widespread rain to make a dent in meeting water needs or save crops.
click image to zoomWeather Channel "Every day we go without significant rain ... is tightening the noose," said Mark Svoboda, a climatologist with the University of Nebraska's National Drought Mitigation Center, told Reuters.
Moving out of summer and into fall, the weather pattern still looks mostly dry for these Midwest and Plains states, so chances of substantial rainfall in the near term are thin, he said.
"We have sort of reached the apex. We are way behind the 8-ball here," said Svoboda.
To fully reverse the drought, many areas need at least 12 inches of rain, as reported by the Weather Channel. Some, such as northeastern Kansas, northern Arkansas, western Illinois, and southwestern Indiana will require 15 inches or more to quench the drought.